The latest cinematic attempt of the story of Noah and the flood has left the religious community awash with controversy. Not so much because any and all mentions of God were scrubbed from the script. It’s mainly because the movie’s producers presented a subject that many evangelical Christians aren’t familiar with–the Watchers, a group of angels that according to the film at least, are on the side of humanity.
In Russell Crow’s “Noah” storyline (directed by self-declared atheist Darren Aronofsky), the Watchers appear as a group of benevolent beings that want to protect mankind from the wrath of God. Similar-looking to the softhearted rock creature in “The Never Ending Story,” this portrayal makes the Watchers appear to be eco-friendly, conscience beings determined to extend the line of humanity beyond the impending flood. This is a very different picture than the one we can find in The Book of Enoch, an extra-biblical book still found in the Apocrypha and the Book of Legends, a collection of Jewish traditions.
In the Enoch account, the Watchers were a large group of angels that colluded together to produce offspring with human women. In return for marriages with human women, the Watchers offered various tribes, groups and people the “knowledge of heaven,” like how to use medicinal herbs, how to practice magic and how to make weapons. As a result of these Watcher/human unions, a group of creatures, often gigantic in appearance, called the Nephilim were born. Many Christians will recognize the names of some of the most popular giants like Goliath and Og of Bashan.
This ancient book even lists the names of these Watchers and discusses what each angel taught humanity. Later, they expressed their regret and plead for the lives of their half-human, half-angelic offspring who they knew were cursed by God. Enoch approached God as their advocate but God refused to forgive the fallen angels or accept their offspring.
The Book of Legends tells quite a few things about the Watchers, but one interesting tale of the Nephilim and the biblical flood stands out. As the waters cover the land, one giant pleads with Noah to allow him shelter aboard but Noah cannot open the door of the vessel–God has sealed it shut. He tells the giant that if he can hold on, he will live. The giant clings to the boat until the flood ends and therefore survives the flood that destroyed the world.
While many Christians left the theater unimpressed with the break from the beloved Bible story, there’s no doubt that Aronofsky has opened the door for some wider discussion on the subject of angels, namely the Watchers.
So did Crow and Aronofsky get it right? Hmmm…that’s up to the jury but there’s no doubt many people will find the subjects interesting.