Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4

by Leolaia 12 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Leolaia

    One of the most explicit incursions of Greek mythology in the NT is the reference to Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4. Here we read that "God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to pits of darkness (sirois zophou), reserved for judgment". The allusion is to the angels that intermarried with human women, as the parallel text in Jude makes clear: "Angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, he has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6). In my recent thread on the Nephilim and the Rephaim (http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/10/68224/1.ashx), I indicated that the legend of the Titans was broadly related to the Canaanite and Hebrew myths of the Nephilim and Rephaim, but here in 2 Peter we see more recent Hellenistic influence on Jewish legend.

    According to Hesiod and other Greek writers, the Titans were the wicked offspring of Ouranius and Gaia ("Heaven" and "Earth") who initially had sovereignty over the cosmos but whom Zeus and the Olympian gods defeated and consigned to eternal bondage in the prison called Tartarus in the netherworld. Iliad 8:13-16 describes Tartarus as a bottomless pit located below Hades, a distinction reminiscent of Hades and the abyss of Revelation. The Jewish Hellenistic traditions that 2 Peter is dependent on equates the angels that sinned with the Titans and their place of bondage as Tartarus. As I showed in an earlier thread (http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/10/64432/993359/post.ashx#993359), 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 are explicitly dependent on the first-century B.C. apocalypse 1 Enoch which elaborated considerably on the fallen angel traditions. Enochian allusions run throughout the two Christian passages in the NT.

    2 Peter 2:4: " For God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment."

    1 Enoch 10:4-6: " Bind Azazel hand and foot and throw him into the darkness....He covered his face in order that he may not see light; and in order that he may be sent into the fire on the great day of judgment."

    1 Enoch 10:11-12 : "Bind Semjaza and the others who are with him, who fornicated with the women, that they will die together with them in all their defilement...Bind them for seventy generations underneath the rocks of the ground until the day of their judgment and of their consummation, until the eternal judgment is concluded."

    1 Enoch 20:1-2: "And these are the names of the holy angels who watch [over the angels]: Uriel, one of the holy angels, for he is over the world and Tartarus."

    Jude 6: " And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, he has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day."

    1 Enoch 12:4: "Go and make known to the Watchers of heaven who have abandoned the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women."

    1 Enoch 15:3, 7: "For what reason have you abandoned the high, holy, and eternal heaven; and slept with women and defiled yourselves with the daughters of the people....I did not make wives for you for the proper dwelling place of spiritual beings of heaven is heaven."

    1 Enoch 10:4-6: " Bind Azazel hand and foot and throw him into the darkness....He covered his face in order that he may not see light; and in order that he may be sent into the fire on the great day of judgment."

    1 Enoch 10:11-12: "Bind Semjaza and the others who are with him, who fornicated with the women, that they will die together with them in all their defilement...Bind them for seventy generations underneath the rocks of the ground until the day of their judgment and of their consummation, until the eternal judgment is concluded.

    1 Enoch is dependent, in turn, on the Greek Tartarus traditions. For instance, 1 Enoch 18:11 refers to the Watchers' prison as khasma mega "great chasm" which is exactly the description Hesiod uses for the prison of the Titans (cf. Hesiod, Theogony 729, 742, 806). There are many other close verbal parallels between the description of Tartarus in the Theogony and the chasm-prison of the angels in 1 Enoch 18:11, 21:7-11 (= Theogony 717-819). Finally, 2 Peter 2:4 decribes Tartarus as "pits of darkness" (sirois zophou), and the parallel text in Jude 6 refers to angels "under darkness" (hupo zophon). The same word occurs in 1 Enoch 17:2 referring to the netherworld as a "place of darkness" (zophode topos), and zophos "gloom, darkness" also designates Tartarus in Hesiod (Theogony, 729), who refers to the Titans "under the misty darkness" (hupo zopho eeroenti), a phrase strikingly similar to that in Jude 6. We also encounter zophos used in phrases like "gloom of the world below" and "nether darkness" in Odyssey 11.57, 155; 20.356; Illiad 15.191; 21.56; Asechylus Pers. 839. In Odyssey 20.356, Erebos is located "beneath" (hupo) the "darkness" (zophos).

    The curious Jewish addition to the Greek Titan tradition is that the angel Uriel is in charge of Tartarus. But this element is in itself dependent on Near East mythology. In 1 Enoch 18:11 and 19:1-2 (also 21:1-9), Uriel serves as the interpreting angel for the prison(s) of the angels and in Sibylline Oracle 2:228 it is Uriel who leads the Titans and the giants (offspring of the Watchers) out of Hades to judgment:

    "Bodies of humans, made solid in heavenly manner, breathing and set in motion, will be raised on a single day. Then Uriel, the great angel, will break the gigantic bolts, of unyielding and unbreakable steel, of the gates of Hades, not forged of metal; he will throw them wide open and will lead all the mournful forms to judgment, especially those of ancient phantoms, Titans and the Giants and such as the Flood destroyed" (Sibylline Oracle 2:225-232)

    The figure of Uriel is also reminiscent of the angel "having the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand" who binds Satan and presumably releases him after the millenium (Revelation 20:1-3). The connection of an angel of light (Uriel = "Fire" or "Light of God") with judgment of those in the netherworld is probably dependent on the Near Eastern tradition of the sun-god having judgment over those in the nether regions. The Sumerian Two Elegies, for instance, speaks of the sun-god's role as an infernal judge: "Utu, the great lord of the underworld, after changing the place of darkness to light, will render your judgment". In Akkadian tradition the sun-god Shamash is also portrayed as the arbiter of decisions:

    "Illuminator of all, the whole of heaven, who makes light the darkness for mankind above and below, Shamash illuminator of all .... The careful judge who gives just verdicts, controls the government, lives like a prince" (Shamash Hymn, COS 1.117 1-3, 101-102)

    After traveling through the netherworld at night, Shamash was believed to decide fates at Duku in the eastern horizon, just prior to his rising between the peaks of Mount Mashu. One may also observe the western entrance to the netherworld in the Sumerian myth Inanna's Descent. Inanna, also known as Ishtar and Venus, surprises the gatekeeper of the "land of no return". Instead of going to the "place of sunrise" where she would rise as the morning star Venus, she has instead come to the "land of no return" in the west, where Utu enters into the underworld. Also in the Baal Cycle, Anat asks the sun-god Shapsh to lift her brother Baal's corpse in the realm of Mot. Shapsh, traveling daily west to east, has access to the netherworld and recovers Baal's body.

    There is one other connection to Akkadian myth in the legend of Tartarus and Uriel in 1 Enoch. In 1 Enoch 18:11-12 we learn that the Watcher's chasm is in proximity to a desrt place of sorts, and Azazel is represented as being cast into a chasm located in the desert in Dudael (1 Enoch 10:4). This is not an isolated tradition; according to the Targum Ps.-Jonathan, Beth-hadure (byt hdwr') is the rocky place where the goat for Azazel is led (cf. Leviticus 16:21) and Beth Hadudu (byt chdwdw) is described as a rocky wilderness in m. Yoma 6:8. Since Hebrew chdr means "sharp, pointed," the Targum form possibly reflects world play (note also the similarity between "d" and "r" in Hebrew/Aramaic). The original Greek form of the name (Dadouel) in 1 Enoch (and possibly the m. Yoma form) suggests a derivation from Aramaic dd' "breast". According to Milik, this etymology is also reflected in the Dendayn of 1 Enoch 60:8 where Behemoth is said to dwell. The Similitudes of 1 Enoch characterize Dendayn as a desert which cannot be seen but which lies east of the garden where the chosen and righteous dwell. The etymology of "breast" evokes the "two breasts" imagery of Akkadian and Sumerian cosmology relating to Mount Mashu, the mountain which twin peaks which oversees the setting and rising of the sun, located in both the east and west at the point of sunrise and sunset. Both Dendayn and Mount Mashu may also bear some connection to sdy known from the theophanic epithet El Shaddai. Shaddai has been associated with Ugaritic tdw or tdy "breast, mountain", which in turn is related to Akkadian shadu. We therefore find within the Enochian corpus a number of traditions about the holding place of the angels, connected to Greek Tartarus, which is also related to Akkadian and Near Eastern beliefs about the entrance and exit of the netherworld at the twin mountains at the extremity of the world, in a chasm located in an infernal desert presided over by the sun-god.

  • trumangirl

    That was hard going but interesting. I'm interested in ways the bible echoes ancient religions as it is a topic I know little about.

    Wondering, are those writings you refer to older or newer than the bible? Also do you the references in the bible to tartarus are the writers using a figure of speech that was familiar to the readers (like us saying 'achilles heel'), or do you think they actually were referring to the concept?


  • Leolaia

    trumangirl....Thanks much for the reply! Yes, the works I cited are definitely older than 2 Peter (which was written in the second century A.D.). Hesiod wrote about 700 BC and 1 Enoch dates to about 200-50 BC (there are copies of it among the Dead Sea Scrolls), except for the Book of Similitudes which dates to about A.D. 50, again definitely precedes 2 Peter. Second, the reference to Tartarus is no mere figure of speech because (1) it uses vocabulary aside from "Tartarus" that derives from Hesiod or 1 Enoch, and (2) the overall conception of Tartarus as the prison of the angels that sinned is exactly the same conception of the chasm in 1 Enoch, and matches the original Tartarus from Greek mythology as the prison in the netherworld where the Titans are imprisoned.

    If you are interested in the mythological connections between the Bible and the Near East, please read these other threads of mine:

    http://www.jehovahs...68098/1.ashx The sea dragons of Leviathan and Rahab

    http://www.jehovahs...68224/1.ashx On the Nephilim, Rephaim, and the Titans

    http://www.jehovahs...67994/1.ashx On Solomon, Shalem, Shahar, Ashtar, and Astarte

    http://www.jehovahs...1007074/1.ashx The origin of the rainbow in Bible and myth

    http://www.jehovahs...958484/1.ashx The Canaanite Legend of Aqhat and the Bible (I)

    http://www.jehovahs...67904/1.ashx The Canaanite Legend of Aqhat and the Bible (II)

    http://www.jehovahs...67843/1.ashx Holy mountains in Canaanite myth and the Bible

    http://www.jehovahs...67655/1.ashx The Sumerian origin of the Enoch legend

    http://www.jehovahs...1031328/1.ashx Asherah, the Snake-goddess Eve, and Moses' bronze serpent

    http://www.jehovahs...66352/1.ashx Jannes and Jambres: Dim memories of Hyksos pharaohs?

    http://www.jehovahs...1029140/1.ashx Parting the Red Sea and the Rahab/Leviathan myth

    http://www.jehovahs...66120/2.ashx Astarte & Baal, Jesus & Mary Magdalene, Simon Magus & Helena

    http://www.jehovahs...1019851/1.ashx Cherubs in the Garden of Eden and the Babylonian Karibu

    There are lots of other threads on mythology, but these are some of the more interesting ones that came to mind. :-)


  • Room 215
    Room 215

    Prodigious, as usual, Leolaia; a lot to chew on for today; thanks.

  • robhic

    Leolaia, you really know some stuff!

    Your mention (above) of the giants/titans as the result of angels marrying human women made me think of something I read just last night.

    I am currently reading the book "The Dead Sea Scrolls" and the portion I read last night mentioned these giants. The Scrolls seem to indicate that the so-called giants were as much as 450 feet tall!!! Who the hell could believe a giant 450 feet tall?

    OK, maybe 10 feet or thereabouts but a 450 foot person is just utterly ridiculous. How tall was Goliath? Slinging a rock 450 feet and hitting a target the size of the 450 foot man's forehead is nothing short of miraculous. Now if David had had a sniper's rifle...

    Interesting thread -- as always -- and even though it is much too deep and intense for the likes of a heathen like myself I appreciate the effort you put into them. I also like the new avatar, although I found the old one disturbingly hot. Maybe I should try out for the next Planet of the Apes movie if they make one?


  • peacefulpete

    Nice work. I remember when I was about 12 learning about the Greek's use of Tartarus as the prison for spirits. I found the WT explanation quite unsatisfactory. It asserted simply that the Bible would not have immitated Greek mythology. They then tried to insist that "it is evident" that Tartarus is a "condition" not a place because Paul refers to the powers and rulers of the cosmos as "in heavenly places". IOW since the Bible cannot contradict itself there must be way to gloss over the facts and invent an unjustified and unsupported new definition for the word. They also in this lack understanding of "Paul's" Gnostic astrologically based message.

  • Leolaia

    robhic.....That's a good point. 1 Enoch 7:3 also says that the height of the giants were "three thousand ells," and since an ell was about 2 or 2 1/2 feet (the length from the shoulder to the wrist), the giants would have stood about 5,000 feet tall at least. I think this is characteristic of the later post-exilic tradition -- possibly influenced directly by Greco-Roman mythologies which posited the Titans and their Giant and Cyclops offspring of fantastic size (at least in the case of Atlas). The older Israelite notion of the Rephaim and Nephilim was discussed in my thread on the subject:


    and these older sources characterized the giants as only 9-15 feet in height. It is definitely this height that Goliath is described as in 1 Samuel.

    I also like the new avatar, although I found the old one disturbingly hot. Maybe I should try out for the next Planet of the Apes movie if they make one?

    Hehehe. This is a scenic photo from the coast of France taken many years ago (let's just say, before Jesus' parousia).

  • Leolaia

    PP.....The WT "scholarly" publications should be used to teach how to recognize faulty reasoning. Do you remember the ALL SCRIPTURE INSPIRED book? It is quite humorous going back and seeing how they argue that Adam was the author of the first chapters of Genesis, David was the author of most of the Psalms, Solomon was the author of Song of Solomon, Isaiah wrote all of Isaiah, etc. etc, ignoring all sorts of evidence and putting internal claims higher than actual evidence. I would also recall how the Aid book would discuss, say, the Amorites and how the Amorites of history were different from how the Bible characterizes them, so they conclude that some other group with the same name was meant. The same goes for the Hittites, the Horites, etc. etc.

  • JCanon

    Hi L.... your posts are always interesting and have depth.

    But, again, as I had commented before, if Noah was not a myth and he related the event of the fallen angels which occurred BEFORE the flood, then one would expect that story, granted in many distorted forms, to be repeated in mutliple parallel cultures.

    Thus, again, I would assert that the concept of what happened to the angels way back then might have been a common concept or myth pointing as much to a common origin of that myth as borrowing.

    Now it would be different if the Christian Bible writers were adopting something NEW here, but the angelic story is pre-flood, thus your claims of influence by Enochian tradition over the NT Bible writers is not sufficiently established, especially since there IS an optional explanation for similiarities in beliefs.

    My take on the Greek myths of the god-men has always been a reference to what actually happened before the flood, that these "gods" were really angels, etc. and the children born to them were men of great physical prowess apparently, thus the Hercules tradition. What really haddpened was great fodder for folklore, obviously.

    But getting back to the point, why didn't Jude get his story from Genesis rather than 1 Enoch? Why is it that just because the Bible doesn't mention the angels were put into prison until the NT wasn't it understood in ancient tradition that they were imprisoned and that's all we're seeing here?

    You're not proving a point here, simply introducing one possibility among others.


  • Leolaia

    I think I already replied to a similar statement of yours on another thread.

    Myth is not history. Historians require documentation for alleged historical facts that can stand up to various tests and proofs for accuracy and historicity. Unsubstantiated folklore, saga, myth, etc. do not qualify as history. You, JCanon, may want to believe that there really were angels and demons that intermarried with human women and beget giants, but that is a matter of faith and not history. Only when empirical independent evidence for a mythical event or personage exists can a historian treat the myth as containing historical material -- until then it is an unsupported assertion inferior to a purely mythological analysis. I have done just such an examination of the evidence of the Titans/Rephaim/Nephilim in my recent thread (see the link in the first post of this thread), and I found many such historical elements -- but none of them have anything to do with the supernatural descent myth. They are rather elements (e.g. like the names "Didanites", "Titan", "Mopsus", "Phoenix", etc.) that incur into the earlier myth. I have shown that the biblical myth of the Rephaim is descended directly from Canaanite myths about deified kings that are historically related to the third millenium B.C. ancestors of the Amorite dynasties -- a Semitic people who certainly were not giants or materialized angels!! The Greek myth borrows from the Semitic myth. We are dealing with ancestor worship -- not history. Your approach is not equally likely or more likely since it stipulates that supernatural gods and superheroes really existed as such, and posits additional claims that need to be ratified with empirical evidence to be treated as history. Your explanation is certainly less plausible than mine according to Occam's razor because it requires additional unproven premises, not even considering whether gods, demigods, etc. exist as supernatural entitites.

    Similarities between myths of different cultures does not constitute evidence of historicity (neither would it be independent evidence even if it counts) -- only of cultural diffusion and archetypal themes and motifs. This is not even as universal a myth as the Flood myth, and the Greek, Babylonian, etc. versions would constitute an areal similarity explainable by just the sort of diffusion I took pains to describe in my earlier post. So your effort to treat the shared myth as a genuine historical reminiscence of godmen is methodologically very weak. The two positions are not equally plausible.

    Further, I also already showed in my post that the Hebrew tale of the descent of lesser deities in Genesis assumes no story of a Flood and thus there is little justification for treating this story as "pre-Flood" and thus universal. As for using that as a basis for assuming universality and priority of the Titan/descent story as you do in your post, that is a case of circular reasoning.

    Finally the later embellished legends in 1 Enoch was influential to both 2 Peter and Jude in the cultural millieu of early Christianity -- why is any other explanation necessary for the former's use in Christian writings? And the use of "Tartarus" in 2 Peter shows explicitly that Greek legends had direct influence on the conception of the decent myth in that work.

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