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Apocalypticism in Luke? Part VI

August 27, 2010

The remembering community of Luke may have made use of the salient past of 1 Enoch in more than just their didactic genealogy. After Jesus defeats ‘the devil’ he then cures a man of an unclean spirit at the synagogue and the demon declares “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34).  Following this episode Jesus cures many illnesses, and many demons are cast out shouting, “You are the Son of God!”  In BW after the commissioning of Raphael to bind Asael, and before the commissioning of Michael to imprison Shemihazah and his associates quoted in the post before this, Gabriel is commissioned to destroy the giants, the sons of the Watchers, from among the sons of men (1 Enoch 10:9-10).  However, this plan has one drawback: the offspring of the Watchers are half flesh and half spirit; so while their bodies are destroyed their spirits continue to live:

But now the giants who were begotten by the spirits and flesh— they will call them evil spirits on the earth, for their dwelling will be on the earth.  The spirits that have gone forth from the body of their flesh are evil spirits, for from humans they came into being, and from the holy watchers was the origin of their creation. Evil spirits they will be on the earth, and evil spirits they will be called… And the spirits of the giants lead astray, do violence, make desolate, and attack and wrestle and hurl upon the earth and cause illnesses… These spirits will rise up against the sons of men and against the women, for they have come forth from them. (1 Enoch 15: 8-11)

There are a couple of brief items worth examination from this passage in 1 Enoch in parallel with the Lukan remembrance of Jesus.

First, the evil spirits released on the world in 1 Enoch lead astray, do violence, make desolate, attack, wrestle and hurl people upon the ground, and cause illnesses. [1] The unclean spirit that Jesus encounters after his rejection at Nazareth hurls his man to the ground saying, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”[2] After rebuking this unclean spirit Jesus then, according to Luke, cures Simon’s mother of a fever and many other person’s sicknesses—ailments which the evil spirits of the giants are responsible for in 1 Enoch—and casts out many more demons who all declare to Jesus, “You are the Son of God” (Luke 4:31-41).  Further, in all three instances—the unclean spirit, the healing of the fever, and the casting out of the demons—Jesus “rebukes” (ἐπιτιμάω) them and they leave, in the case of the fever it “lets her go” (ἀφίημι).

We might suppose that Jesus would ‘cast out’ the demon (ἐκβάλλω) a verb regularly used in conjunction with δαιμόνιον (7 x in Matthew, 9 x in Mark, 7 x in Luke all in chs. 10-13) and ‘heal’ the fever, but it is noteworthy that unclean spirit, sickness, and demon possession are all defeated by the same means (ἐπιτιμάω) in Luke.  Now ἐπιτιμάω is also found in relation to demons in Matthew and Mark (1x Matthew, 2x Mark), but it is worth mentioning that they are found in sections that parallel Luke (Mark 1:21-26//Luke 4:31-37; Luke 9:42//Matt 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29), and all other times the other two gospel writers use ἐκβάλλω; so the use of ἐπιτιμάω in the parallel sections may reflect older apocalyptic traditions.

What is important for the present investigation is that Luke also has this ‘source’ (of course his source may be one of the other writers); however, the author of Luke tells and understands this story within a section of his narrative that is surrounded by many possible apocalyptic influences; the context this story is remembered in Luke may shed light on how the Lukan community was remembering the exorcist aspect of Jesus’ life. Perhaps the limited use of the verb ἐπιτιμάω may merely signal a certain way of remembering Jesus that each synoptic author told in their communities for their present needs, and ἐκβάλλω and ἐπιτιμάω may have been interchangeable verbs to describe exorcist activity.

However, the evil spirits in these sections might also be Enochian (and by the time of the NT writers it could just be the view of Judaism regarding demons in general excluding the Sadduceees), the evil spirits do hurl people to the ground and make sick, and these actions have a singular response from Jesus as a cure in Luke 4: ἐπιτιμάω. The first century person shaped in the worldview of a book like 1 Enoch might say, “Of course, they all have the same solution because they all have the same problem.”


[1] The term πνεύματα πονηρά “is not especially common for demons, but in the literature of this period it always refers to malevolent spirits who cause people to sin or afflict them with evil and disease,” see Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 272. It is suggestive that of the five uses of the term in the NT four appear in Luke-Acts: Luke 7:21, 8:2, 11:26; Acts 19:12-16 in which a man with a πνεύματα πονηρά leaps upon a group of exorcists, attacks them, and does violence.

[2] Though it is outside of the scope of these posts there could be much said within the paradigm offered here concerning the demons designation for Jesus as “The Holy One of God” and Jesus’ self-identification as the “Son of Man” in comparison with 1 Enoch’s second booklet the Parables of Enoch.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. WenatcheeTheHatchet permalink
    August 27, 2010 3:25 pm

    It has been more than a decade since I’ve talked to him with any consistency but NT Eugene Lemcio once told me that Luke sometimes make a distinction between those who are “demonized” and those who are “moonstruck”. Not knowing Greek well enough to parse that issue myself I’ve wondered if there is a case to be made that Luke actually made a distinction between people influenced by evil spirits and people who were mentally ill.

    Not familiar with what views the Sadducees had on demons. Hasn’t rabbinic thought shifted toward an explanation that the devil is kind of a meta-extension of the temptations or desires in one’s own heart? Granted, I read that from modern rabbis who might not represent anything like rabbinic thought from ancient Palestine or the views of the Sadducees.

    The significance of 1 Enoch on Jude and the nearly universal acceptance of its narrative was somethign I started digging into years ago and it was around that time that I began to shift gears in where I was landing on churches. A certain pastor dismissed the entire Enochian narrative and influence as ideas with a “seed of Chucky” dismissive joke–the more I researched Jude and even Augustine’s comments about the Enochian legacy (i.e. the part in City of God where he says that though most Christians didn’t take it seriously at that time it was widely accepted enough in earlier times he didn’t want to just dogpile it) the more I realized that somebody was being too glib and dismissive from the pulpit.

  2. Chris E permalink
    August 28, 2010 7:22 am

    Reading the text of 1 Enoch last night, I was wondering if the concept of a ‘tribulation’ also dated back to either 1 Enoch, or the era in which it was written.

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