What would you consider to be the most mystifying of NT texts? Would it be Jude 6, 9, 1 Peter 3:18-20, or the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:2, 10-27? Could the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) help de-mystify these texts? You’ll be surprised.
BACKGROUND: OT ERA COMPARED WITH NT ERA BELIEFS
The OT refers to life after death as Sheol, which is a permanent place for the dead, whether righteous or unrighteous. New thoughts were emerging in the NT times about life after death, angels and demons. Jesus and the rabbis taught numerous concepts, but the rabbis’ teachings were quite different. Rabbis taught Satan was just stupid, a nuisance, and an obstructor to mankind, in contrast to Satan’s evil.
Alfred Edersheim wrote 11,000 words in Appendix 13 from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah on angels and demons in the rabbinical writings. If you read The Book of Enoch, you’ll find more on angels and demons than what the Bible has. But a lot of it sounds fanciful, like Greek myths influenced imaginations too much.
There were 20 copies of Enoch among the DSS, which is the same number of the Genesis copies found. This helps prove the first-century Jews generally felt The Book of Enoch was almost, if not as important as Genesis was. Enoch is Pseudepigrapha, and each of the copies was partially preserved among the DSS (in Aramaic). The rest of this book was preserved for us today in the Ge’ez language in Ethiopia.
The Book of Enoch dates back to 300-100 BCE and was referenced in 1 & 2 Peter, and in Jude. It was never accepted into the Jewish or Christian canon of scripture, but keep reading to see its value for contextual information. Like other Pseudepigrapha, its “author” was ascribed by tradition to dubious origins: to the great-grandfather of Noah.
The first part of the Book of Enoch describes the fall of the Watchers, the angels who fathered the Nephilim. The remainder of the book describes Enoch’s visits to heaven in the form of travels, visions, dreams, and his revelations….
The first part…is said to have been composed in the 4th or 3rd century BCE according to Western scholars…. It…depicts the interaction of the fallen angels with mankind; Semiazaz [Satan] compels the other 199 fallen angels to take human wives to “beget us children”…. This results in the creation of the Nephilim (Genesis) or Anakim/Anak (Giants).From Wikipedia
WHAT ABOUT 1 PETER 3:18-20?
Because these fallen angels corrupted mankind so much, that’s why the Book of Enoch says God caused the flood. Then these fallen angels were bound
…for 70 generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment…they shall be led off to the abyss of fire…torment and the prison in which they shall be confined forever. And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations.From Wikipedia
It’s to these “spirits in prison” Jesus went to proclaim or preach something when he died on the cross (1 Peter 3:19-20). What did Jesus say to them? Well, it seems to be a parallel to this text in The Book of Enoch: “Enoch, righteous scribe, go and say to the watchers of heaven… ‘You will have no peace or forgiveness.’ Then I went and spoke to all of them together. And they were all afraid…trembling and fear seized them (1 Enoch 12:4-5, 13:3).” I think Peter may have referenced this section of Enoch because Jesus did this before rising again–not Enoch.
THE NEW JERUSALEM
With the discovery of the scrolls, we have learned that the men of Qumran were also keenly interested in the appearance and dimensions of the new Jerusalem. At least 6 scrolls have been identified from 5 of the Qumran caves…. All of these are in Aramaic…and 3 of them…preserve substantial chunks of text.
Modeled after Ezekiel 40-47 and Isaiah 54:11-12, the scrolls present us with a vision that includes precise measurements and a look at the liturgical practices of the temple in new Jerusalem. Also, the new Jerusalem is said to be 100 stadia north to south and 140 stadia east to west (or 13.3 x 18.6 miles). That’s pretty big, though much smaller than the vision related by John in the book of Revelation: “He measured from the northeastern corner to the north gate, 35 stadia…” [and between each of the 12 gates, another 35 stadia, with 3 gates on each side of the city].From The Dead Sea Scrolls and Revelation 21:16