On the esoteric level, Aronofsky plays with the archetypal and biblical symbolism in an interesting way that still remains basically faithful to the text. In the beginning, Noah begins to see in his dreams (visions) images of the serpent and Eden. The forbidden fruit and the serpent appear, as well as a snakeskin that Noah’s father wraps around his forearm like the strap of the tefillin. Lamech imparts to Noah the tradition that the Creator is to be worshipped, while the descendants of Cain are to be avoided for their wickedness. The Watchers, the fallen angels of Enoch soon appear, and we are given a somewhat accurate narrative about their attempt to aid mankind by teaching them forbidden arts, such as technology. I have written elsewhere about the reality of the gods, and Aronofsky is not far from the ancient biblical and traditional conception. In the Book of Enoch, the Watchers are imprisoned under mountains for their sins, so the association of making them rock-like, having lost their airy, angelic covering is somewhat sensible.
What is missing is the teaching that the Watchers taught men forbidden arts and set up idolatry. However, at this stage, the descendants of Cain still have knowledge of the Creator, so it’s plausible that idolatry had not yet been established universally at the behest of the fallen angels. We get the impression that began at Babel and into the days of Abraham, where Abraham’s father, Terah, was an idol maker. It is also important that God had not yet introduced the death penalty, which occurs in Genesis 9, when the covenant is made with Noah following the flood. Other commenters and theologians have also made the point that whatever was going on at the time of the flood, it was significant enough that God determined to destroy the world. This suggests the classical interpretation that the sons of God, the angels and/or Watchers had interbred with women, creating giants (Nephilim) and other odd offspring. The New Testament book of Jude supports this interpretation, as well. Furthermore, Scripture even says Goliath was a descendant of the same.
Thus, I don’t see anything particularly offensive or wrong about Aronofsky’s portrayal of the giants/Watchers, aside from leaving out the interbreeding with women, which Jude and Enoch say is the reason for the spread of wickedness and the flood. As I wrote in an older article regarding Genesis 6:
“I think the only sensible and honest view of the text in Genesis 6 is that there is a real interchange between the bene Elohim, the sons of God, and the daughters of men. The traditional Augustinian idea of the ‘godly line of Seth’ is the least coherent and most textually odd. Nowhere in the OT is bene Elohim used of men and there is no reason to assume ‘giants’ means anything other than giants. Further, later books like Deut., Numbers (13:33) and Joshua (12:4, 17:15) make it clear that descendants of these half-breeds continue somehow even after the flood. We are told in Deut. 3:18 that Og king of Bashan’s bed was the equivalent of about 20 feet. Goliath is said to be a descendant of these giants, too. Thus, the Rephaim and Nephilim somehow continued to be ‘produced’ even after the flood. It’s more likely that the angel/god/entities were able to continue to do this somehow after the flood than that half-breeds somehow survived the flood. Further, this matches up perfectly with the ancient myths of the Titans.
Now the gods could be these half-breeds. The Book of Enoch, which I am assuming readers and debaters will have read, seems to say that the giants are imprisoned. (If you haven’t read the Book of Enoch please don’t get on here and pontificate about it.) This could the imprisoned spirits St. Peter mentions, too, and interestingly, St. Peter calls their abode ‘Tartauros’ – the Greek abode of Hades and the dead. By the way – Scripture also confirms that Hades is an angel/god – Apoc. 20:13. Angelic rulers are often spoken of as ‘gates’ in Scripture (Ps. 24, Mt. 16:18-19), which may have reference the angelic toll-house gates. The angels are also connected to stars and called stars in many places in Scripture (e.g., Apoc. 9:12, Ps. 147:4). It seems reasonable to me that many of the gods are half breeds with ‘powers’ but not necessarily all, since, as we will see, it appears YHWH/God appoints them to rule over the nations.
The material in the Book of Enoch also matches up to what we find in Daniel. As I wrote in my earlier article:
“But since Scripture and Tradition are quite clear that there are also fallen angelic beings that come from the original hierarchy, we can deduce that the ranks mentioned several times by St. Paul also have their “regional” powers. We learn this from St. Daniel, where St. Gabriel the Archangel visits in answer to prayer with news concerning the “princes” of Greece and Persia (9:21, 10:13-20) with whom Gabriel battled, needing the assistance of St. Michael (verse 20). Clearly no mere human being could withstand the might of an Archangel, but we mustn’t exclude the notion of a human factor to the appellation “prince.” Furthermore, St. Michael is called “prince” with the same Hebrew word (sar) as the “princes” of Greece and Persia, and undoubtedly Michael is no mere human prince.
What we find is what we find elsewhere in Scripture and Tradition, that both are being spoken of: the angelic entity, along with the human being under its relative dominion. This is evidenced elsewhere in Scripture, for example, in the lengthy description of Lucifer’s fall from Eden and the fall of the King of Tyre and Sidon (Ez. 28). There we see some texts applying primarily to Lucifer and others to the King of Tyre. We are also told in Daniel 4:17 that the sentence against Nebuchadneezer’s pride was by the “decree of the watchers,” who are clearly identified in chapter 10 as the Archangels, showing us that they rule human affairs as secondary agents under God and by His sovereign decree. So says David in Ps. 103:20-22, where the idea is the same as in Daniel. What’s the point? All of this is still true today, literally true, and modern, doubtful “scholars” are flat-out wrong. In this they echo Nebuchadneezer in thinking they rule, and not God and His hosts.”
The Book of Enoch reads:
“1. And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ 3. And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ 4. And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ 5. Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 6. And they were in all two hundred; who descended ⌈in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 7. And these are the names of their leaders: Sêmîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjâl, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. 8. These are their chiefs of tens.
1. And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: 3. Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, 4. the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood. 6. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.
1. And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals 〈of the earth〉 and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. 2. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl, (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Ezêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, 〈Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun〉, and Sariêl the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven 1. And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth. 2. And they said one to another: ‘The earth made †without inhabitant cries the voice of their crying† up to the gates of heaven. 3 ⌈⌈And now to you, the holy ones of heaven⌉⌉, the souls of men make their suit, saying, “Bring our cause before the Most High.”.’ 4. And they said to the Lord of the ages: ‘Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings, 〈and God of the ages〉, the throne of Thy glory (standeth) unto all the generations of the ages, and Thy name holy and glorious and blessed unto all the ages! 5. Thou hast made all things, and power over all things hast Thou: and all things are naked and open in Thy sight, and Thou seest all things, and nothing can hide itself from Thee. 6. Thou seest what Azâzêl hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were (preserved) in heaven, which men were striving to learn: 7. And Semjâzâ, to whom Thou hast given authority to bear rule over his associates. 8. And they have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins. 9. And the women have borne giants, and the whole earth has thereby been filled with blood and unrighteousness. 10. And now, behold, the souls of those who have died are crying and making their suit to the gates of heaven, and their lamentations have ascended: and cannot cease because of the lawless deeds which are wrought on the earth. 11. And Thou knowest all things before they come to pass, and Thou seest these things and Thou dost suffer them, and Thou dost not say to us what we are to do to them in regard to these.'”
Aronofsky’s version is not far from this, aside from leaving out the idolatry. The fallen angels do teach man forbidden arts, technology and magic (or maybe technology is the magic). The idea of the “ancient technology of the gods,” so prominent on goofy conspiracy sites, is not that far off from the biblical narrative. The line of Cain does learn the “arts” from the fallen angels, but we don’t know that the fallen angels necessarily and immediately hated men. Indeed, Satan had already fallen, and presumably these Watchers are different from the original fallen host. In that regard, it is plausible that these Watchers were not exactly demons. In the film, the resource all search for that gives light and fire is called “zohar,” which in Jewish tradition means splendor. Zohar, of course, is also part of the kabbalistic tradition, and in the film seems to be what the angels are made of, prior to being cast down to the earth and rock-bound. The Jewish Encyclopedia states:
“The later Jewish tradition, shocked at the notion of the angels’ fall, insisted upon interpreting the bene Elohim of Gen. vi. 1-4 as referring to men (Gen. R. xxvi.: “sons of judges”; comp. Tryphon in Justin, “Dial. cum Tryph.” p.79)….The cabalists give the older view. In the Zohar (iii. 208, ed. Mantua) Aza and Azael fall and are punished by being chained to the mountains of darkness. According to another passage (i. 37), these two rebelled against God and were hurled from heaven, and they now teach men all kinds of sorcery (for other quotations from cabalistic commentaries on the Pentateuch see Grünbaum, “Gesammelte Aufsäze zur Sprach- und Sagenkunde,” p. 71).”
While many reviews and analyses are bantering about the appellation “gnostic” for the film, Aronofsky’s film is kabbalistic, which is not exactly the same. Some medieval kabbalists were gnostic, but if one peruses famous Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem’s works The Kabbalah and Origins of the kabbalah, it quickly becomes apparent that there is not one kabbalah anymore that there was one gnosticism. Some scholars and writers, who merely see a similarity between an elaborate angelology and gnostic cosmology, assume the two are the same. Rather, there is overlap and difference: kabbalah represents the Jewish mystical attempt to develop a metaphysic and a theodicy. Where individual kabbalists take that is up for grabs, as much as one might critique the Cappadocian fathers for being gnostic for studying under Origen.
In regard to the covenant, there is nothing overtly wrong, since we don’t know exactly how God presented the rainbow. Even the New Testament Apocalypse presents the rainbow as circular (Apoc. 4:3), so the accusation that the circular rainbow is de facto gnostic, like this dude hastily argues is absurd. Many of us have read Irenaeus, Dr. Matt, as well as a decade of patristics research on top, plus branching out into platonism and kabbalism. The problem is, those “seminary graduates” you speak of that do read Irenaeus do not remain Protestant (like myself). The covenant theology of Noah, wherein God makes a covenant with Noah as a new Adam in a new world/Eden, is not violated in the film. Noah still calls on the same God who sent the flood, and even in his period of doubting, God sent the requested signs Noah asked for. There was no transfer to a Luciferian snake god after leaving the “gnostic psycho killer version of Jehovah.” Tubal Cain influences Ham to be his own god and reject the Creator, while Noah and his lineage remain faithfiul to the Creator, even after a dark night of not understanding why God was flooding the earth. In regard to the luminous bodies that Noah (in the film describes), Paul himself speaks of spiritual, luminous, edenic bodies as the actual resurrection state (1 Cor. 15, 2 Cor. 5). Nothing about these “bodies” or tabernacles suggests that they are anti-material, nor does the film’s version of Eden say as much. In the New Testament, when Christ is resurrected, His body is able to appear and reappear, no longer bound to the corrupted state the rest of fallen men are.
Aronofsky even avoided the question of evolution by having the imagery occur in fast-motion. In fact, when Noah recites the creation story of Genesis, it follows the 6 day pattern of the Bible. In conclusion, while Noah interpolates and speculates, it was generally faithful to the narrative as presented in the Jewish tradition. If one is upset by the skin of the serpent presented as a tefillin strap, I simply say that if Aronofsky had made a story about Moses presenting the serpent on a pole, it would not necessarily mean his presentation of Moses was “gnostic.” The serpent on a pole healed the Israelites, and in Christianity, both the serpent on the pole and the tefillin strap bound to the arm would symbolize the Logos on the cross, as John 3 says. In Christian theology, Christ is the fulfillment of all the previous covenants, and is the final Noah. The Church is His ark, saving those that enter (the nations symbolized by the animals) from their own destruction. There is nothing about the film that prevents anyone from continuing that symbolic, covenantal interpretation. Did Aronofsky intend to present Noah as truly an enlightened gnostic seed of the serpent? I doubt it, since Noah and his family still call on the same God that sent the flood. All the scandal and controversy results from a lot of ignorance on the part of religious adherents, as well as the non-religious. It was basically what I would have made, had I made a Noah film.