The early Christian church was nearly unanimous in the belief that the gods of the Greeks and Romans were not imaginary. They, like the Jewish scholars a few hundred years earlier, understood that the Olympians, Titans, Gigantes, heroes, and daimones of the pagans were supernatural beings called “angels,” “Watchers,” “sons of God,” “Nephilim,” “Rephaim,” and “demons.” In fact, the second-century theologian Irenaeus of Lyon, a student of Polycarp (who was a disciple of the apostle John), connected the Titans to end-times prophecy.
The Assyrian kingdom emerged as the dominant political and military power in the ancient Near East toward the end of the tenth century BC, shortly after the division of Israel into the northern kingdom, which retained the name of Israel, and the southern kingdom, Judah. For the next three centuries,
In Ugaritic texts, the Rephaim were summoned through a necromancy ritual to the “threshing-floor” of the Canaanite creator-god El. After two days of riding, the Rephaim arrived at the threshing-floor “after sunrise on the third.” The purpose of the ritual was nothing less than the resurrection of the Rephaim.
The story in the Book of 1 Enoch would make a compelling supernatural thriller. It has two main villains—Watcher-class angels named Shemihazah and Azazel. Shemihazah is the leader of the rebel faction—their king, if you will. But the sins of Asael form another narrative that’s worth our attention.