Fortress Press

The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature, Revised Edition

The Origin of Evil Spirits

The Reception of Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature, Revised Edition

Archie T. Wright (Author)


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How do we account for the explosion of demonic activity in the New Testament? Archie T. Wright’s work traces the development of the concept of evil spirits from the Hebrew Bible through postbiblical Jewish literature. Wright is concerned with the reception history of Genesis 6:1–4 (the source of the “Watchers” traditions) in early Enochic and Philonic Judaism during the Second Temple Period. He suggests that the nonspecificity inherent in the biblical text of Genesis 6:1–4 opened the basis for the later emergence of an etiology of evil spirits as Jewish authors engaged with the text.

As a result, Genesis 6:14 played an important part in the development of demonology in Second Temple Judaism. Chapters examine 1 Enoch 1–36 (the Book of the Watchers) and the reception of the Watchers tradition in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Philo of Alexandria and draw conclusions about the background of the New Testament conceptions of demons and demon possession. 
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451490329
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 247
  • Publication Date April 1, 2015


“I would in fact recommend this book, not because of the answers it gives, but the questions it raises.”
—Philip R. Davies
Emeritus, University of Sheffield, UK

“This work is marked by several strengths. First, Wright shows an impressive command of the primary and secondary literature. Second, this writer appreciates Wright’s tendency to express cautious conclusions regarding historical and source-critical matters. These qualities are especially helpful in a work dealing with the reception history of a given text. Third, Wright has an extremely helpful discussion of the identity of the nephilim of Gen. 6:4.”
Mark D. Owens
Luther Rice University & Seminary
“This is an important book that ought to feature in any discussion of the Book of the Watchers, of Jewish demonology, and of the interpretation of Gen. 6:1-4. Wright’s book is helpful in suggesting that the chapters in question may not so much speak of the origin of evil per se as of the origin of evil spirits. This in itself is an important contribution. In addition, the fine detail of the text contains a wealth of helpful analysis.”
Grant Macaskill
St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews