THE “SONS OF GOD” AND THE “DAUGHTERS OF MEN”: A Case Study in the Importance of Careful Exegesis

THE “SONS OF GOD” AND THE “DAUGHTERS OF MEN”: A Case Study in the Importance of Careful Exegesis

© 2015, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were nephilim on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)

The account in Genesis 6:1-4 is perhaps the single most enigmatic passage in the Old Testament, raising numerous puzzling questions.  Who were these “sons of God”?  Who were the “daughters of men”?  What was wrong with the former taking wives from among the latter?  Who – or what – were the nephilim, and how exactly were they connected to the sons of God and daughters of men?  The answers are not immediately obvious.

Three explanations have been proposed by various interpreters through the years.[1]  They are:

  1. The “sons of God” were fallen angels who married and had conjugal relations with “the daughters of men” who were human females.  (Those who champion this idea may also aver that the nephilim were the angel/human hybrid offspring of these relations.)

  2. The “sons of God” were the descendants of the Godly line of Seth and the “daughters of men” were the descendants of the ungodly line of Cain.

  3. The “sons of God” were exalted kings or rulers who were taking wives, perhaps by force, and building harems for themselves.

Creation Ministries International’s CEO Gary Bates adds a fourth possibility, that the “sons of God” were men possessed by demons (i.e. fallen angels).[2]

We shall examine each of these possibilities in turn, to see which, if any, is correct.  As we do this, we will discover the need for great care in exegesis, for although this question may seem to be of only minor, academic interest, we shall see the great harm that can come with an erroneous conclusion and teaching.  We will now proceed, beginning with an examination of the nephilim.

Who Were the Nephilim?

The King James Version (KJV) translates Genesis 6:4a as “There were giants in the earth in those days,” rendering nephilim as “giants.”  Were the nephilim giants?  The Hebrew text of Genesis 6:4a reads,

הָהֵם בַּיָּמִים בָאָרֶץ הָיוּ הַנְּפִלִים.

The first (rightmost) word is הַנְּפִלִיםha-nephilim,” “the nephilim,” where nephilim is a direct transliteration of the actual Hebrew.

The Hebrew word for “giants” is רְפָאִיםraphaim”, which is found in Deuteronomy 2:11, 2:20, 3:11, 3:13; Joshua 12:4, 13:12, 17:15; 2 Samuel 21:16, 21:18, 21:20, 21:22; and 1 Chronicles 20:4, 20:6, and 20:8. הַנְּפִלִnephilim” is found only in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33.

Why then did the KJV translators render nephilim as “giants”?   No doubt it was because of the way the word was translated in the ancient Greek OT translation known as the Septuagint (LXX), which reads, “οἱ δὲ γίγαντες ἦσαν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις,” with γίγαντες (“gigantes”) translating nephilim, and gigantes was taken to mean “giants” by the KJV translators.

Actually, the LXX translators were strangely inconsistent in how they translated these two Hebrew words.  They rendered nephilim as “giants” both times, but of the thirteen appearances of raphaim,[3] they transliterated it as Ραφαϊν (“raphain”) seven times and translated it as “giants” six times.[4]

If nephilim were not giants, what were they?[5]  It is possible that nephilim comes from the Hebrew verb לנָפַ “naphal” (= to fall).  Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries International (CMI) asserts that

The Hebrew word is nephilim נְפִילִים, which is related to nāphal נָפַל, or fall.[6]

John MacArthur also goes this route, arguing that this indicates that

they were strong men who ‘fell’ on others in the sense of overpowering them.[7]

He asserts that the nephilim were a separate group from “the mighty men who were of old, men of renown” (6:4b), saying that

they were already in the earth when the “mighty men” and “men of renown” were born.  The fallen ones are not the offspring from the union in 6:1,2.[8]

Henry Morris, by contrast, avers that

Though some commentators suggest that the word means ‘those who fall upon’ – that is, ‘attackers’ – the more natural and probable meaning is ‘those who have fallen,’ probably a reference to the nature of their pseudoparents.[9]

Morris not only disagrees with MacArthur about the implication of the term, he also believes that the nephilim are the offspring from the union in 6:1-2.

Harris et al suggest that nephilim refers “to a race or nation.[10]  Walton et al, on the other hand, seem to be diametrically opposed to this, insisting that

Nephilim is not an ethnic designation but a description of a particular type of individual … it is more likely that the term describes heroic warriors, perhaps the ancient equivalent of knights errant.[11]

On this point, Harris et al concur, suggesting that the word may come from “a root nāpal II, akin to other weak verbs, pûl II ‘be wonderful, strong, mighty’ … the word may be of unknown origin and mean ‘heroes’ or ‘fierce warriors.’[12]

In light of this uncertainty, it is not surprising that many modern translations simply transliterate the term as nephilim and do not attempt to translate it.  We shall leave this for the moment.

There is one more question about the nephilim: were they the offspring of the union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” or were they not?  We have already seen that MacArthur says they were not, while Morris says they wereGary Bates also takes it as a given that they were, writing about “the offspring that resulted from the sexual union of the sons of God and the daughters of men — the Nephilim[13] and stating that “the Nephilim (the offspring of this union) are always referred to in the masculine gender.[14]

He seems to think that there isn’t even a question but that the nephilim were the offspring of this union.  He is wrong.

Let us look carefully at the verse again:

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were nephilim on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them.

We note immediately that the text does not explicitly say that the nephilim were the ones born to these daughters of men.  On the contrary, it indicates the nephilim were already there; the presence of the nephilim is described as an attendant circumstance, not an outcome of the relations between the sons of God and the daughters of men.

The mind boggles, then, at Bates’ bizarre statement that

This then begs the question of who are the Nephilim and why are they expressly mentioned as the offspring of this union?[15]

As we have seen, it is patently obvious that the nephilim are notexpressly mentioned as the offspring of this union.”  Why Bates thinks they are is difficult to understand.  For the record, had the text said, “the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore nephilim to them,” then the nephilim would have been “expressly mentioned as the offspring of this union.”  But that is not what the text says.

And it is not only that the nephilim are not expressly mentioned as the offspring of this union.  It is also that there are some 126 places (in addition to Genesis 6:4) in the Old Testament that mention that a woman “bore” (or has or had “borne”) offspring,[16] and the offspring are always mentioned directly, never as an attendant circumstance as we see in Genesis 6:4.  It seems clear, then, that proper exegesis requires us not to see the nephilim as the offspring of the union between “the sons of God” and the “daughters of men.”  This understanding will help clarify this difficult passage.  But first, let us move on to the matter of determining the identity of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.”

Who Were the “Sons of God”?

We have seen the four proposals that have been offered regarding the identity of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:4:

  1. The “sons of God” were fallen angels who married and had conjugal relations with “the daughters of men” who were human females.

  2. The “sons of God” were the descendants of the Godly line of Seth and the “daughters of men” were the descendants of the ungodly line of Cain.

  3. The “sons of God” were exalted kings or rulers who were taking wives, perhaps by force, and building harems for themselves.

  4. The “sons of God” were men possessed by demons (i.e. fallen angels).

The fourth proposal can immediately be dismissed as a non-starter (indeed, it is difficult to see why it was ever proposed).  Uniformly in the Bible, “son of God” is an exalted status.  It is accorded to special servants of God (e.g. 2 Samuel 7:14), to Christian believers (e.g. 2 Corinthians 6:18), and, in a sui generis way, to the Messiah (e.g. Hebrews 5:5).  There is no way that this title would ever be given to a demon-possessed man, let alone that it would be given to him because he was a demon possessed man.

The second proposal can also immediately be dismissed as a non-starter.  There is no reason to think that all of the direct descendants of Seth remained Godly and all of the direct descendants of Cain were ungodly, which is what this proposal requires.  In fact, it is unreasonable to think that such a thing could even happen (Ezekiel 18:1-29); there were certainly very ungodly men, such as King Manasseh, in the “Sethite” line.  And, as Bates points out,

If this were the case, however, one wonders why the Scripture did not say “sons of Seth” and “daughters of Cain.”[17]

The third proposal seems more reasonable, but it, too, fails.

First, there is nothing in the language of the passage indicating that the women were being taken by force.  The Hebrew word translated “took” is לָקַח “laqach” is the standard word for marrying a woman, used for example in Genesis 11:29 to describe Abram taking Sarai and in Genesis 24:67 to describe Isaac taking Rebekah (and she obviously had a choice in the matter, as shown 24:57).

Second, there is no indication that harem building is in view, or even polygamy, given that both “sons of God” and “daughters of men” are in the plural.  But even if polygamy were in view,

it is difficult to imagine why that would be worthy of note, since polygamy was an acceptable practice even in Israel in Old Testament times.[18]

Third, the Bible never refers to pagan kings as “sons of God,” and “sons of God” and “daughters of men” is not used to distinguish social classes.  This suggestion, therefore, must be accounted a failure.

This leaves only the first proposal, that the “sons of God” were fallen angels who married and had conjugal relations with “the daughters of men” who were human females.  Is this correct?  It is certainly the most common view among evangelical scholars and commentators.  According to Allen,

The most likely interpretation is that the sons of God were fallen angels.  This is the view of Jewish scholars and best explains the text.[19]

MacArthur agrees,[20] as does Morris.[21]  So, too, does Bates, who says,

A straight-forward reading of Genesis 6:4 implies that evil angels actually cohabited with women … the strongest argument for this view comes from the simplest understanding of the text itself.[22]

However, being the most common view does not equate to being the correct view.  Let us examine this proposal carefully.

Gary Bates of CMI offers a detailed defense of this proposal,[23] so we shall use his arguments as the basis for our examination.  In sum, Bates makes the following points to support the idea that “sons of God” here refers to angels:

  1. “The term, ‘sons of God,’ in Hebrew, is bene elohim.  It is used five times in the Old Testament (twice in Genesis 6, and once each in Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7, Authorized Version). In the passages outside of Genesis, it is always clearly used of angels.”[24]

  2. This view is “held by the translators of the Septuagint … ancient Jewish interpreters, the historian Josephus, the earliest Christian writers, and by many modern notable Christian apologists today.”[25]

  3. Jude 6-7 “clearly links the perverted sexual practices of Sodom and Gomorrah with fallen angels who have not ‘kept their place’.”[26]

  4. The “everlasting chains” in Jude 6 “make sense when read with the view that the sons of God in Genesis 6 were possibly fallen angels.”[27]

  5. 1 Peter 3:18-20 “could possibly be a third mention of the fallen angels of Noah’s time.”[28]

  6. The book of Enoch “describes the spirits of the Nephilim as evil spirits roaming the earth; Mark 5:2-13 gives this ‘radical view … some scriptural support.’”[29]

  7. Nephilim are “half-human/half-angel beings [who] retained some of the supernatural characteristics of their fathers … this view arose because of the description of the Nephilim as the ‘mighty men of old’ and ‘men of renown’.”[30]

Bates makes the following points to rebut objections to the idea that “sons of God” in Genesis 6 refers to angels:

  1. Regarding Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:29-30/Mark 12:24-25, that “when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven,” Bates asserts that this does not overturn the idea that angels were marrying human females in Genesis 6,[31] insisting that “Some use this passage to claim that angels are incapable of having sex or procreating, but this is not what the Scripture says.  It does say specifically that the angels in heaven, or those angels who obey God, do not engage in this practice.[32]

  2. According to Bates, “The biggest objection to this view is the belief that it is impossible for angels to have sexual relations with humans because they are spirit beings.  But as we have already seen in the UFO/abduction phenomenon, as well as in other parts of Scripture, they can also exist and manifest at a physical level … angels appeared in physical bodies, such as the three visitors to Abraham who sat, ate, and spoke with him (Gen. 18:1-15).  We would presume then that they must have had the necessary digestive systems to be able to do this.[33]

Bates’ case may prima facie seem strong, but let us examine it in detail to see if it holds up or not.  We begin with his arguments in support of the proposal, and immediately we see some rather serious problems.

In Point 1, Bates argues that

The term, ‘sons of God,’ in Hebrew, is bene elohim.  It is used five times in the Old Testament (twice in Genesis 6, and once each in Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7, Authorized Version).  In the passages outside of Genesis, it is always clearly used of angels.[34]

This would seem to be Bates’ strongest point, but it is rather thin gruel.

First, outside of the passage in dispute, the expression appears only three times in the rest of the OT, all in the same book (Job).  That means it is not “well attested,” so convincing conclusions cannot be drawn by looking at its usage elsewhere.[35]  Second, it is not true that in these other passages “sons of God” is always used of angels, let alone that it is “clearly” used of angels.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6)

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1)

Now what is there here that suggests that these “sons of God” are angels?  Is this a scene in heaven?  If so, why does the text say that the “sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD”?  Do angels come to present themselves before the LORD in heaven?  Are they not always in His presence?  And more importantly, how does Satan get into heaven to present himself before the Lord?  Satan was thrown out of heaven (Luke 10:18), and there is no reason to think that he can gate crash back in.[36]

There is another explanation of Job 1:6 and 2:1 that is far more reasonable, which is that the conversation between God and Satan takes place in the spirit realm during a worship service on Earth of Godly people, possibly including Job, and that the “sons of God” are these Godly people.  We note that the very expression “sons of God” is used expressly to mean this four times in the New Testament;[37] in one of these “sons of God” are explicitly differentiated from angels:

“But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead … are equal to the angels and are sons of God …” (Luke 20:35-36a).

In addition, the concept that believers/members of the covenant people are sons of God is found in many places in both the OT and the NT.[38] Furthermore, Hosea 1:10b reads,

“… In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’

There it shall be said to them,

You are sons of the living God.’”

Bates tries to blunt the force of this significant verse, arguing that

It is not exactly the same description because it refers specifically to the children of Israel being ‘sons of the living God.’[39]

But surely that is a distinction without a difference.

Incredibly, Bates subsequently attempts to buttress his case by pointing out that

In Daniel 3:25, the term “son of the gods” or “like the Son of God” (bar elohim) is used, which describes either an angel or a theophany … The expression “sons of the mighty” (bene elim) is also used to describe angels in Psalms 29:1 and 89:6.[40]

Yet in none of these passages is an angel mentioned nor is there indication that the bar elohim or the bene elim are angels.  Nor is there any reason to think that they are angels.[41]  So here, too, what Bates presents as evidence is not evidence for his view at all.

What is more disturbing is that he tries to rule out the statement in Hosea 1:10 as evidence for the view that “sons of God” means God’s covenant people by saying that

It is not exactly the same description because it refers specifically to the children of Israel being ‘sons of the living God.’[42]

Yet it is certainly closer than bene elim, which Bates does want to allow as evidence for his view.  This certainly smacks of a double standard.

And, in view of the fact that Bates also claims regarding Hosea 1:10 that “One should not resort to exceptions unless there is a good reason,[43] this is a good time to bring up another point that seems to have somehow been overlooked by Bates: Hebrew has a perfectly serviceable word for “angel,” מַלְאָךְ (“malak”, plural מַּלְאָכִיםmalakim”).  This word appears some 114 times in the OT (102 times in the singular, twelve times in the plural), against five total appearances of “sons of God,” which indicates that when God wants to talk about angels in His written word, He calls them “angels.”  (Indeed, it appears in Job 4:18, showing that the writer of Job knew of and used this word for “angels.”)

Furthermore, we should not overlook the fact that angels appear fifteen times in Genesis under the name malak – twelve times in the singular and three times in the plural – which indicates that the author of Genesis used this term when he wanted to talk about angels.  Apropos to this, we recall that Bates challenged the view that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were the descendants of Seth by saying,

If this were the case, however, one wonders why the Scripture did not say “sons of Seth” and “daughters of Cain.“[44]

By the same reasoning, given the overwhelming preponderance of the usage of the term malak for angels, we can ask, if the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were angels, “one wonders why the Scripture did not say ‘angels’ and ‘daughters of men.”

Finally, we recall Bates’ sound advice that

One should not resort to exceptions unless there is a good reason.[45]

Yet it would be difficult to argue that our view resorts to exceptions, in light of the fact that angels are called malak 114 times in the OT, whereas “sons of God” appears only five times, and only in one of those cases does the context even reasonably (though not conclusively) suggest that angels are in view.[46]  Furthermore, in both the theology and the other explicit references to “sons of God” where context is determinative, the reference is undeniably to righteous people of God, the covenant people, not to “angels.”  So Bates is setting the possible meaning of “sons of God” in one lone passage against all this mountain of countervailing evidence.[47]  It is well and truly absurd.

Bates is not the only one, of course.  Morris makes the same risible assertion that

there seems no reasonable doubt that, in so far as the language itself is concerned, the intent of the writer was to convey the thought of angels – fallen angels, no doubt, since they were acting in opposition to God’s will.[48]

He makes the very same errors as does Bates, mistakenly assuming that the meaning of bene elohim in Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7 “applies exclusively to angels,[49] wrongly appealing to bene elim in Psalm 29:1 and Psalm 89:6,[50] and failing to consider the implications of the usage of malak and the overall usage and theology of bene elohimMacArthur also insists that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are angels,[51] while Allen claims that

the most likely interpretation is that the sons of God were fallen angels.[52]

Other CMI functionaries who buy into Bates’ nonsense include Dr. Robert Carter,[53] Dr. Jonathan Sarfati,[54] and Lita Cosner.[55]

Bates’ main argument, then, for seeing the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 as angels is an utter failure.  Are any of his other arguments any better?

His second argument is that this view was “held by the translators of the Septuagint … ancient Jewish interpreters, the historian Josephus, the earliest Christian writers, and by many modern notable Christian apologists today.[56]  This is not true as far as “the translators of the Septuagint” go; while they did translate “sons of God” as “angels” in Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7, in the passages under consideration, Genesis 6:2 and 6:4, the Septuagint translators rendered the term as οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ (“hoi huioi tou Theou”), “the sons of God”; they did not translate it as “angels” (ἄγγελοι “angeloi”).

As far as “ancient Jewish interpreters, the historian Josephus, the earliest Christian writers” go, it is ironic that Dr. Robert Carter, in an article about this very issue, asks a reader, “are you allowing non-biblical, extra-biblical, or even anti-biblical, arguments to inform your opinion?[57]

Dr. Carter is correct on this; the issue must be settled through careful exegesis of the Bible, not by “non-biblical” or “extra-biblical” sources, such as “ancient Jewish interpreters, the historian Josephus, the earliest Christian writers.[58]  And as for the fact that this view is held “by many modern notable Christian apologists today,” we shall see whether they are justified.

In his third argument, Bates asserts that Jude 6-7 “clearly links the perverted sexual practices of Sodom and Gomorrah with fallen angels who have not ‘kept their place’.[59]  Careful examination is needed to see whether this is so.  First, here is what Jude 6 says:

ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν, ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον, εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν

And the angels not having kept their ἀρχή but ἀπολείπω their own οἰκητήριον for judgment of the great day with bonds eternal under darkness He has kept.

There are several different meanings for ἀρχή,[60] but the one that fits the context in this verse is “office” (i.e. the sphere of one’s official activity). ἀπολείπω means “to leave, desert, put aside, give up.”[61] οἰκητήριον means “a place of living, dwelling, habitation.”[62]  The verse then reads as:

And the angels who did not keep their office but deserted their own habitation for judgment of the great day with bonds eternal under darkness He has kept.

The sin ascribed to these angels is that they abandoned their office and habitation – which fits in with the picture of angels siding with Satan and being cast out of heaven – not that they had conjugal relations with human females.

Yet Bates strives mightily to convince us that such conjugal relations are in view.  He quotes the passage this way, adding bolding himself:

And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home — these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.  In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.  They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire [emphasis added].[63]

Bates believes that “in a similar way” indicates that Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns “gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” in the same way as the angels in v. 6.  But the Greek text and a more literal translation read as follows:

ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν, ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον, εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας, δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμοῤῥα, καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τούτοις τρόπον ἐκπορνεύσασαι, καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, πρόκεινται δεῖγμα, πυρὸς αἰωνίου δίκην ὑπέχουσαι

And the angels who did not keep their office but deserted their own habitation for judgment of the great day with bonds eternal under darkness He has kept. As Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities in a manner similar to these, having indulged in sexual immorality and having gone after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, undergoing punishment of eternal fire

Bates would have it that τούτοις (“these”) refers back to “the angels,” so that it is the angels who “indulged in sexual immorality and hav[e] gone after strange flesh.”  While that is not grammatically impossible,[64] it is far more reasonable to see τούτοις referring to Sodom (Σόδομα) and Gomorrah (Γόμοῤῥα), which are immediately antecedent to τούτοις; thus the passage is asserting that it is the “surrounding cities” that “indulged in sexual immorality and hav[e] gone after strange flesh” in a manner similar to what Sodom and Gomorrah did.

Now, if one looks at the flow of argumentation presented by Jude in vv. 5-7, we see three examples of God visiting judgment on evildoers, in v. 5 on those who came out of Egypt but did not believe; in v. 6 on angels who deserted their office, and in v. 7 on Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities.  The “in a similar manner to these” refers to the actions of the “surrounding cities,” whose citizens acted as those in Sodom and Gomorrah,” and the “as” at the beginning of v. 7 shows the similarity between the events of verses 5 and 6 and the events of v. 7 as examples of God’s judgment rather than in terms of similarity of the sins themselves.

Thus it does not seem possible to use this passage as proof that angels had conjugal relations with human females, either in Genesis 6 or anywhere else.  And again we can remind Bates that he previously challenged the view that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were the descendants of Seth by saying,

If this were the case, however, one wonders why the Scripture did not say “sons of Seth” and “daughters of Cain.”[67]

By the same reasoning, we can ask here, if the sin of the angels in Jude 6 was in fact sexual relations with human females, “one wonders why the Scripture did not say ‘And the angels who had sexual relations with human females for judgment of the great day with bonds eternal under darkness He has kept.‘”

As an adjunct to the previous argument, Bates suggests that the “everlasting chains” in Jude 6 “make sense when read with the view that the sons of God in Genesis 6 were possibly fallen angels.[68]  Actually, the text explicitly says that these angels are in everlasting chains because they “did not keep their office but deserted their own habitation.”  It is neither necessary nor warranted to speculate beyond that.

As his fourth argument, Bates suggests that 1 Peter 3:18-20 “could possibly be a third mention of the fallen angels of Noah’s time.[69]  Inasmuch as this passage doesn’t even mention angels, it is not “a third mention of fallen angels in Noah’s time.”  And it couldn’t be a “third mention” under any circumstances, since there has not been a first or second mention.

After this, Bates goes off the rails, offering as if it were actually evidence the fact that the book of Enoch describes the spirits of the Nephilim as evil spirits roaming the earth; Mark 5:2-13 gives this ‘radical view … some scriptural support.’[70]  Why any evangelical would appeal to an apocryphal book of nonsense is difficult to understand.  Bates needs to think about Robert Carter’s question again,

are you allowing non-biblical, extra-biblical, or even anti-biblical, arguments to inform your opinion?[71]

And if he will not listen to Carter, let him at least listen to the Bible and not [be] giving heed to Jewish fables. (Titus 1:14a).

And the idea that Mark 5:2-13, in which Jesus sends a number of demons into swine, in any way supports the idea that these evil spirits are the “spirits of the Nephilim,” who are nowhere mentioned in the passage, is just risible.  The passage is part of a detailed account of the exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac, who was possessed by many entities that are referred to interchangeably as “unclean spirits” (Mark 5:8) and “demons” (Mark 5:12).  Demons are understood to be incorporeal spirits that are angels who rebelled with Satan and were cast out of heaven (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9), and that is all.  There is no possible justification for linking demons in this passage or in any other to the nephilim, and it is frankly surprising that any evangelical would attempt to do so.

Thus ends Bates’ attempt to provide positive evidence for the idea that Genesis 6:1-4 is talking about fallen angels having conjugal relations with human females.  His argument from the terminology used failed; on the contrary, a study of the language used in the passage indicates that the “sons of God” are not fallen angels.  His appeal to non-Biblical sources was illegitimate and, in the case of the Septuagint translators, mistaken.  His attempt to dragoon in passages that say nothing about nephilim nor make any reference to Genesis 6:1-4 nor include the expression “sons of God” (viz. 1 Peter 3:18-20 and Mark 5:2-13) is embarrassing.  His appeal to the collection of “Jewish fables” known as the book of Enoch is more embarrassing still.  The only argument he adduces that could carry any weight is Jude 6-7, but while this allows for his interpretation of Genesis 6, it certainly does not necessitate it.

To this point, Bates’ case could be seen as innocuous silliness.  Real trouble, however, comes when we look at the case against seeing Genesis 6:1-4 as an account of fallen angels having sexual relations with human females, relations that result in actual offspring.  Of course, proponents of this view are aware of possible objections and do seek to rebut them.  Henry Morris, for example, asserts that the reason for rejecting this view is

the opinion that it would be impossible for angels to have sexual relations with human women and to father children by them.  However, this objection presupposes more about angelic abilities that we know.  Whenever angels have appeared visibly to men, as recorded in the Bible, they have appeared in the physical bodies of men.  Those who met with Abraham, for example, actually ate with him (Genesis 18:8) and, later, appeared to the inhabitants of Sodom in such perfectly manlike shape that the Sodomites were attempting to take these “men” for homosexual purposes.[72]

Bates, too, appeals to these examples of angelic appearances in the OT. He and Morris also respond to a “proof text”, Matthew 22:29-30/Mark 12:24-25 (“when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven”) that is adduced to show that angels cannot marry.  According to Bates,

Some use this passage to claim that angels are incapable of having sex or procreating, but this is not what the Scripture says.  It does say specifically that the angels in heaven, or those angels who obey God, do not engage in this practice.[73]

Tragically, this analysis is a textbook example of how not to do proper exegesis.  For proper exegesis, the didactic statements must be examined first, because they are direct propositional assertions in “God-breathed” Scripture.  Examples of historical events recorded in Scripture must be understood in light of these didactic statements, not vice versa.[74]  (And it is truly frightening that Bates writes, “as we have already seen in the UFO/abduction phenomenon, as well as in other parts of Scripture, [angels] can also exist and manifest at a physical level,[75] as if the testimony of people who claim to have been abducted by space aliens should be a determinative factor in Biblical exegesis!)

So let us proceed to do proper exegesis regarding this topic.  We begin with the obvious question: What are angelsThe answer is not difficult to discover, since the Bible explicitly tells us that they are spirits (Hebrews 1:14).  Then we continue with the fact that angels do not have physical bodiesJesus Himself tells us this, and it is crucial to consider the context of His statement:

Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

The bodily resurrection of Jesus was such a fantastic thing that even His own disciples had trouble believing it.[76]  They supposed that it was only His disembodied spirit that they were seeing when He appeared to them, but Jesus made it clear that it was really Himself risen in His body, proving it by pointing out that He was present with them in flesh and bone (i.e. in physical form), whereas “a spirit does not have flesh and bones.”  That, to Jesus, proves the matter and ends the discussion.

Now here is the problem: Jesus’ statement is proof only if it is universally true, that is, if spirits (and angels are spirits) can never have physical bodies.  If spirits can sometimes have physical bodies, then Jesus’ proof here is invalid, for He could then simply be a spirit manifesting as physical.  Indeed, if spirits can sometimes have physical bodies, then how can we know that Jesus actually rose from the dead?  How can we know that it was not an evil spirit taking on a physical form and masquerading as Jesus?

So Jesus’ proof that He had risen bodily depends quintessentially on the universal truth of His statement that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones.”  If spirits can even sometimes have flesh and bone, then Jesus was either mistaken or lying when He appealed to the fact that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones” to prove Himself.  Yet Jesus is never mistaken and never lies, which means that spirits (including angels) never have flesh and bones.  Q.E.D.

And yet Henry Morris, John MacArthur, Ronald Allen, and the CMI writers, including Gary Bates, Lita Cosner, Robert Carter, and Jonathan Sarfati, all glibly assert that angels did indeed take on physical bodies and engaged in sexual relations with human females!  If any of them has taken note of or thought about the implications of Jesus’ words in Luke 24:39 for their outré theory, it is not obvious.  And if they have, how they can continue to hold to their outré theory is less obvious still.

Bates, for example, tells us that

The biggest objection to this view is the belief that it is impossible for angels to have sexual relations with humans because they are spirit beings.  But as we have already seen in the UFO/abduction phenomenon, as well as in other parts of Scripture, they can also exist and manifest at a physical level.[77]

But Jesus said they cannot; does Bates think we should take the testimony of those who claim to have been abducted by space aliens over the testimony of Jesus?

Bates continues his mug’s game of trying to prove that angels could become physical, claiming that

angels appeared in physical bodies, such as the three visitors to Abraham who sat, ate, and spoke with him (Gen. 18:1-15).  We would presume then that they must have had the necessary digestive systems to be able to do this.[78]

No, we would assume that a closer look at what happened in Genesis 18:1-15 was called for, since Jesus told us that angels do not have flesh and bones, and this would include not having digestive systems.

Meanwhile, CMI golden child Lita Cosner glibly asserts that

Angels are spiritual beings … [who] have been known in Scripture to manifest in our realm using corporeal bodies which can eat and so presumably carry out all normal human body functions, including reproduction.[79]

That is quite a presumption for beings that do not have flesh and bones and so cannot carry out all normal human functions and certainly cannot reproduce with human beings.

It is quite incredible that so many evangelical exegetes overlook the significance of Jesus’ words in Luke 24:39.  (For example, a search of CMI’s website, which has over 9,000 articles, yields only one mention of Luke 24:39,[80] and then only to argue that the risen Jesus was not a spirit.)  How can so many evangelical exegetes argue for a view of Genesis 6:1-4 that knocks Jesus’ own proof for His own resurrection into a cocked hat and not even realize they are doing that?

Bates, again, blithely writes that angels “are spirits (Hebrews 1:14), yet they always appeared to humans as physical men/males when doing God’s bidding (Gen. 19:1; Luke 24:4) … They can appear physically, and so real to humans that we do not recognize them as angels (Genesis 18:1-16; Hebrews 13:2).[81]  Bates is correct that angels are spirits and he is correct that they appeared as physical men (the operative word here being “appeared”; that was the impression received by the viewers), but that does mean they were physical men.  Bates is wildly incorrect to say that angels are spirits that can appear physically when Jesus Himself said that spirits “do not have flesh and bones.”

Of course, Bates and Morris and those who advocate the view that angels can become physical do offer putative evidence for their claims.  Most commonly they appeal to “the three visitors to Abraham who sat, ate, and spoke with him (Gen. 18:1-15).”  Specifically, it is v. 8 that reads,

So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

And again in Genesis 19:3b we read,

Then [Lot] made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

Of course, if these were indeed angels who were eating and thereby proving that they had flesh and bones and “the necessary digestive systems to be able to do this,[82] then Jesus spoke falsehood and we have far more serious problems than the proper understanding of Genesis 6:1-4.  But is this what the text really says?  Let us look more carefully.  The following are Genesis 18:8 and 19:3b in the original Hebrew:

וַיֹּאכֵֽלוּ הָעֵץ תַּחַת עֲלֵיהֶם וְהֽוּא־עֹמֵד לִפְנֵיהֶם וַיִּתֵּן עָשָׂה אֲשֶׁר וּבֶן־הַבָּקָר וְחָלָב חֶמְאָה וַיִּקַּח

וַיֹּאכֵֽלוּ אָפָה וּמַצֹּות מִשְׁתֶּה לָהֶם וַיַּעַשׂ

So what the angels did wasn’t actually “eat”; it was לאָכַ (“akal”).  What does this word mean?  It appears many times in the OT, and with a variety of meanings.  BDB lists the following: eat; eat, devour; devour, consume; devour, slay; devour, consume, destroy.[83]  TWOT lists eat, consume, devour, burn up, feed.[84]

We see it used in, for example, Genesis 31:15:

“Are we not considered strangers by [Laban]? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed (לאָכַ) our money.”

Does Bates think that Laban actually ate Jacob’s money and digested it in his digestive system?

We see it used in Genesis 31:40:

There I was! In the day the drought consumed (לאָכַ) me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes.”

Following Bates’ logic, should we assume that drought can manifest physically, complete with “the necessary digestive systems to be able to do this”?

Exodus 15:7 reads,

“And in the greatness of Your excellence

You have overthrown those who rose against You;

You sent forth Your wrath;

It consumed them (לאָכַ) like stubble.”

Is wrath able to manifest in a physical body, complete with “the necessary digestive system to be able to do this”?  And because wrath can לאָכַ, can it “presumably carry out all normal human body functions, including reproduction”?[85]  The answers should be obvious.

First Kings 18:38a reads,

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed (לאָכַ) the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust …

Again, is the fire of the Lord able to manifest in a physical body, complete with “the necessary digestive system to be able to do this”?  And because wrath can לאָכַ, can it “presumably carry out all normal human body functions, including reproduction”?[86]

The point should be clear: there are various meanings of לאָכַ, all of them related in some way to destruction (and with the sense of breaking down into component parts until there is no more left).  The specific meaning of לאָכַ in any given context is determined by the agent performing the לאָכַ act.  When it is people doing this act, it often means to eat (food), though not always (e.g. Genesis 31:15; Psalm 14:4; Jeremiah 10:25).  When it is something else – e.g. fire, sword, drought, famine, pestilence – לאָכַ means some other form of destruction.  Since angels “do not have flesh and bones” and therefore no digestive systems, when they “consumed” the food with Abraham and with Lot, they must have destroyed it in some other way than eating.  (Perhaps the way they did it was what alerted Abraham and Lot to the fact that their visitors were not ordinary men.)

Robert Carter tries another approach to prove that angels had physical bodies, asking, “And what about Gen 19:10 [“But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.”] and, even better, 19:16 [“And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters …]?  They were certainly acting like physical beings in these passages.[87]

Yes, it does seem that way, and indeed if we did not know from Jesus’ own testimony that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones,” we would be inclined to take it that way.  But we do know from Jesus’ own testimony that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones.”  So, although we do not know exactly how spirit beings interact with the physical world (nor is it necessary to know how), we do know that it is different from flesh-and-bone touching.  If that seems strange to Carter, he might remember that gravity holds even the earth and moon in their places without actual physical contact.

These are the only two recorded incidents that can possibly be used to try to prove that Jesus was wrong and that spirits can indeed have physical bodies, and, as we have seen, neither is able to do that.  And there is a further problem with claiming that angels “are spirits (Hebrews 1:14), yet they always appeared to humans as physical men/males when doing God’s bidding (Gen. 19:1; Luke 24:4) … They can appear physically.[88]

Since angels are spirits, they have no physical bodies, so if they can appear in physical bodies, where do those bodies come from?  Specifically, whence do evil angels get their bodies?[89]

Now, here is the problem: Bates’ co-worker Russell Griggs, in his article “A remarkable witness to creation – Satan,[90] asserts that by tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread, Satan was actually bearing witness to creation, because “What Satan said in effect was: ‘If you are God, create …!  Create the required organic molecules, organize them into the needed complex carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre, etc …’[91]

It is important to notice that Grigg points out that

creating bread (whether from stones or ex nihilo) [would] prove that Christ was God … [because] one of the attributes of God is His omnipotence, i.e., He is able to do whatever He wills (consistent with His own holiness).”[92]

Grigg insists that

Satan was challenging Christ to duplicate in miniature form the instantaneous and fiat creation that happened during Creation Week.  And of course, for the temptation to have had any meaning at all, Christ must have had the ability to do it … So, truly, this is a remarkable testimony by Satan, not only to the truth of Genesis 1, but also to the fact that Christ was the Creator Son of God.[93]

When Grigg was subsequently challenged with the fact that turning stones into bread is not fiat creation, CMI co-worker Dr. Carl Wieland leaped to his defence, claiming that

Grigg was not referring to the bringing of matter into existence so much as he was the ordering of that matter into biological (or in the case of bread post-biological) complexity.[94]

But for the issue at hand, it doesn’t matter which, for Grigg and Wieland are clearly saying that the ability to create bread, “whether from stones or ex nihilo, does “prove that Christ is God” – because the ability to create matter out of nothing or to reorganize molecules instantly from one form to another is the prerogative of divinity.

So we ask again, whence do the angels, who are spirits, get their physical bodies?  Do they create them ex nihilo?  Do they take some form of pre-existing matter (such as stones) and “create the required organic molecules, [and] organize them into the needed complex carbohydrates, protein, fat,” and other things for a physical body identical to a human one?  And the DNA and the macro structures?  If the ability to create bread from stones is proof of Godhood, how much more the ability to create functioning human body equivalents from simple matter or ex nihilo?  Did Bates and Sarfati and Miss Cosner and Carter not notice that by Grigg’s logic angels would have to be God to make for themselves physical bodies?  Did they not even stop to ask the basic question of whence the angels, who are spirits, get their bodies?

So here is a second line of evidence (though the first is quite sufficient by itself) that angels cannot have physical bodies.  Bates’ only remaining gambit is to argue that when the Bible says that angels are spirits (Hebrews 1:14), that does not mean that they are only spirits.  At least, that is what he seems to be doing by averring that

Although angels are described as spirits, so are human beings … It would appear the spirit is part of our being and not necessarily the sum of it.[95]

This argument is frankly risible.  Contra Bates’ assertions, angels are not merely described as spirits; they are stated to be spirits (πνεύματα “pneumata” pl., πνεῦμα “pneuma” sing.)  Human beings, on the other hand, are never called “spirits” (πνεύματα) anywhere in the Bible.

He also points out that “God is spirit,[96] but that only further undercuts his own position.  God is spirit, and He does not have flesh and bones.  So unless we want to embrace Mormon theology,[97] it is difficult to understand how the fact that God is spirit and has not flesh and bones is supposed to support the idea that spirits can have flesh and bones.

What Bates does get right is his statement that

It would appear the spirit is part of our being and not necessarily the sum of it.[98]

Exactly; human beings are not called “spirits” because they are not spirits.”  They are tripartite beings that have spirits, but that is only one component of the human being.  They also have body and soul (1 Thessalonians 5:23b).[99]  And the fact that the body and spirit are two separate components is repeatedly made clear in Scripture:

“I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body …” (Daniel 7:15a)

… glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:20b)

… she may be holy both in body and in spirit. (1 Corinthians 7:34b)

… the body without the spirit is dead … (James 2:26a)

Now, of these three components, body, soul, and spirit, which is the one essential to sexual relations and reproduction?

Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:22-24)

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:15-18)

Clearly, it is the physical, flesh-and-bone body that is the component of the human being that is quintessentially involved in and necessary for sexual intercourse and reproduction.  Now, if

  1. A physical, flesh and bone body is necessary for sexual relations and reproduction, and
  2. Angels are spirits, and
  3. By Jesus’ own testimony “a spirit does not have flesh and bones,”

then it is impossible for angels ever to have had sexual relations with human women, let alone produced offspring, nephilim or otherwise.  Q.E.D.  The idea that they did, touted by Morris and MacArthur and Bates and Miss Cosner and Carter and so many others, is revealed to be what it is: nothing more than the plotline for a bad, B-grade sci fi movie.

So Who Were the “Sons of God” and the “Daughters of Men”?

We have seen that there are four suggestions that have historically been given as to the identity of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:

  • They were fallen angels who married and had conjugal relations with “the daughters of men” who were human females.

  • The “sons of God” were the descendants of the Godly line of Seth and the “daughters of men” were the descendants of the ungodly line of Cain.

  • The “sons of God” were exalted kings or rulers who were taking wives, perhaps by force, and building harems for themselves.

  • The “sons of God” were men possessed by demons (i.e. fallen angels).

Our examination has shown that none of these suggestions is correct. So who then were the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men”?  We propose here another explanation that we believe is the best understanding that can reached based on what we are told in Scripture.

First, as we have previously shown, the assumption that “son of God” refers to angels is ill considered.[100]  In fact, both the direct expression and the associated concept clearly refer to righteous people or members of God’s covenant people.  Such people are necessarily believers.

Second, we recall that one of the chief dangers for believers, one that God repeatedly warns against and is repeatedly shown to have disastrous consequences, is to marry unbelievers.  We see this in, inter alia, Exodus 34:14-16; Judges 3:5-7; Ezra 9:1-12; and Nehemiah 13:23-27.  This has caused the people of God to stumble again and again.  Inasmuch as “sons of God” usually refers to believers in the Bible, could the problem in Genesis 6:1-4 be the first example of believers intermarrying with unbelievers and being led away from God?

Well, is there any passage in Scripture that contrasts God’s people with those who are not God’s people, the latter being described as “children of men”?[101]  There is at least one such passage, which is Psalm 14:1-5:

1The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.

2The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.

3They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, no, not one.

4Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call on the Lord?

5There they are in great fear, for God is with the generation of the righteous.

The careless exegete thinks that Psalm 14:1 is teaching the universal sinfulness of all humanity, but the careful exegete who pays attention to the text sees that this is not so. In reality, there are two distinct groups in this passage.  The first group is characterized by a denial of the existence of God, by corruption, by abominable iniquity, and by a complete lack of interest in seeking God.  But there is a second group as well, because v. 4 draws a clear distinction between “all the workers of iniquity” (which includes the entire first group because it comprises “all” the workers of iniquity) and “my people.”  This distinction is reinforced in the next verse, in which “they” (the first group) are in great fear, because God is with “the generation of the righteous” (the second group).

The second group comprises the righteous, the believers, the people of God, whereas the first group comprises the opposite, those who reject and oppose God – and they are designated “the children of men.”  So there is at least one clear example in Scripture of “children of men” referring to unrighteous unbelievers.

With this understanding, the mystery of Genesis 6:1-4 may become much less mysterious.  The followers of God are choosing wives based on their appearance, not on their faith, and that leads – as it does throughout Scripture – to large scale apostasy and then to judgment.

How do the nephilim fit into this scenario?  Recall that Genesis 6:4 reads,

There were nephilim on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

How the nephilim fit into our scenario depends on who the nephilim were.  First, were they or were they not “the mighty men who were of old, men of renown”?  As previously noted, John MacArthur asserts that the nephilim were a separate group from “the mighty men who were of old, men of renown” (6:4b), saying that

they were already in the earth when the ‘mighty men’ and ‘men of renown’ were born.  The fallen ones are not the offspring from the union in 6:1,2.[102]

MacArthur, however, seems to think that the “mighty men” and “men of renown” were the offspring of the union in 6:4.  He is correct on the first point but wrong on the second, for the Hebrew does not allow that interpretation.  There is no actual word for “children” in the Hebrew of this verse; Genesis 6:4b simply reads,

The sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore to them.

With no actual noun for the offspring in the verse, the following demonstrative pronoun cannot refer to them, but must refer to the nephilim, the subject of the sentence.[103]

Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4b)

הַשֵּֽׁם אַנְשֵׁי מֵעֹולָם אֲשֶׁר הַגִּבֹּרִים הֵמָּה

הַגִּבֹּרִים (“ha-gibbōrim,” sing. And without the article רגִּבּוֹ “gibbōr”) means “the mighty men.”  This word gibbōr occurs 156 times in the OT.[104] הַשֵּֽׁם אַנְשֵׁי (“enōshē ha-shēm”) literally means “men of the name”.  The expression enōshē ha-shēm indicates men of renown in several places in the OT (Numbers 16:2; 1 Chronicles 5:24, 12:30).[105]

So what does all this yield?  If Harris et al are correct that nephilim means “‘heroes’ or ‘fierce warriors,’[106] the entire passage coheres perfectly.  The meaning would be “There were warriors (or heroes) on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore to them.  Those (the warriors) were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”  If nephilim means “fallen ones,” we have the added information that these mighty men were apostates, and the passage still coheres without any difficulty.

The sense of Genesis 6:1-4 then would be this: As the human population began to multiply, believing men began to marry unbelieving women, picking wives on the basis of physical appearance, and that led to spreading apostasy.  There were mighty men in those days, who either fought against the apostasy, or (especially if nephilim means “fallen ones”) who facilitated the spread of enmity against God.

The advantages of this understanding, over against the view which Morris and the CMI cohort urge are:

  • It does fit with the actual language of the text
  • It describes the first appearance of problem that does happen elsewhere in Scripture
  • It does not require any B-movie sci fi elements
  • It does not require that we ascribe powers of deity to angels
  • It does not make Jesus mistaken or deceptive when He says “A spirit does not have flesh and bones.”
  • It does not destroy Jesus’ proof for His own resurrection

This should be more than enough to convince any fair-minded Christian.  Our careful analysis of the actual Hebrew texts, as well as taking seriously Jesus’ words in Luke 24:39 – which so few evangelical exegetes do – shows that the bizarre idea of angels impregnating women and spawning human/angel hybrid offspring can finally be put to rest.  The enigmatic passage, Genesis 6:1-4, has a reasonable answer.

Finally, a warning should be taken from this analysis.  The question of the nature of the events described in Genesis 6:1-4 seems to be simply a curiosity, something not relevant to the “big picture” of the Bible’s message.  And the idea that these events involved angels marrying human women and having conjugal relations with them and spawning angel/human hybrid offspring called nephilim seems strangely attractive so many evangelicals, who accept it without thinking it through carefully.

Careful thinking involves taking all relevant factors into consideration.  It is a sine qua non for this popular idea that angels (and evil angels, at that) be able to manifest in human form, complete with physical bodies, including flesh and bones and “digestive systems.”  As we have seen, this idea not only ascribes the power of God to demons, it contradicts Jesus and destroys His own proof for His bodily resurrection.  He proved that He did not come back simply as a spirit, because “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39b) – but that is not true if angels can manifest in physical human form.  This severe undermining of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a high price to pay to cling to a bad sci fi scenario to explain Genesis 6:1-4.

Be warned, then.  Even seemingly trivial passages of the Bible can have a bearing on crucial topics.  Serious apologetics requires correct exegesis.


APPENDIX 1: DOES “SONS OF GOD” in JOB 38:7 REFER TO ANGELS?

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7)

The assumption that “sons of God” in Job 38:7 refers to angels is made because there seems to be no one else around during the creation of the world to “shout for joy” (though we are not told elsewhere that angels were actually around at that time.)  However, there is another possibility.

First, according to the industry standard New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon (BDB), the Hebrew בֵּן (“ben” = son) can refer to inanimate objects (p. 121), and does so at least twice in the Book of Job (e.g. Job 5:7, where בְנֵי־רֶשֶׁף (“bene resheph” = lit. “sons of flame”) is used for “sparks.”

Second, we see from the structure of the text that “And all the sons of God shouted for joy” is a poetic parallel to “When the morning stars sang together.”

Third, we see that there is obvious anthropomorphism in this verse, since stars, morning or otherwise, do not sing.  That raises the possibility that there is an anthropomorphism in the second part of the verse also, paralleling the one in the first part of the verse.  In that case, it may be that “sons of” is used with inanimate objects here and so “sons of God” refers to the things God was creating at the time, and these “shouted for joy” in the same way as the stars of the morning, also inanimate, “sang together.”  This is at least a possible legitimate alternative interpretation of “sons of God” in Job 38:7.


APPENDIX 2: WERE THERE NEPHILIM IN CANAAN?

In Numbers 13, Moses sends twelve spies into the land of Canaan.  When they return, ten of spies urge the people not to invade the land:

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the nephilim (the sons of Anak from the nephilim); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

Those who hold to the view that the nephilim were angel/human hybrids (a view that we have seen is untenable) believe that one purpose of the worldwide flood was to destroy the nephilim,[107] and therefore there could not have been any nephilim living after the flood.  They run into an obvious difficulty, then, with the incident in Numbers 13, in which the spies report that they saw nephilim in Canaan.  Therefore, those who hold this view must insist that there were no nephilim in Canaan, regardless of what the spies reported.  As Bates puts it,

It should be clearly noted that the Nephilim in this passage cannot refer to any people group or human beings who survived the Flood in addition to Noah and his family.  Those on the ark were the only human survivors … The fact that only the Noahic line survived the Flood means that the Nephilim in Numbers 13 cannot be descended from a pre-Flood group.[108]

Bates tries to explain the spies’ report about the nephilim in Canaan by contending that

It should be noted that the spies brought back a bad, or evil (Hebrew dibbah, “to slander, whisper, or defame”) report.  That report included a parenthetic insertion that the large people known as the sons of Anak were descended from the Nephilim … At first reading, this may seem like a factual account, but it is part of the quoted false report of the spies.[109]

Lita Cosner doubles down on this, asserting – as if it had been proven – that

There were never Nephilim after the Flood–the spies’ report was called an ‘evil’ report, or a ‘lying’ report.  They claimed that the descendants of the Nephilim were there, but there is never any sign of them once the Israelites actually invade.[110]

Elsewhere, Miss Cosner fleshes out her imaginative explanation, contending that

When the Israelite spies gave their lying report about Canaan, they said: ‘And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them (Numbers 13:33).’  They were lying; there weren’t any Nephilim; they all died in the global Flood (See Who were the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6?).  When Israel invades the land 40 years later, the Bible never records there being actual Nephilim in Canaan at any point … The Israelites knew about the pre-flood Nephilim, enough that the spies knew that reporting their presence in Canaan would make the Israelites fearful to invade.[111]

Then in response to the question “Is there any scriptural support for this idea?[112] Miss Cosner avers that

The report of the spies is called an evil report and a lying report.  What were they lying about?  And there is no mention of Nephilim when they actually entered the land, or at any time subsequent.[113]

Does any of this hold water?  Let’s see.

To avoid the possibility that nephilim may have been living at the time the spies returned from Canaan, which would completely overturn the idea that the nephilim were angel/human hybrids who were wiped out by the flood, Bates and Miss Cosner resort to the assertion that the spies were lying.  But simply disagreeing with CMI is not proof of lying.  What proof do Bates and Miss Cosner adduce to buttress this charge?

According to Bates, the spies’ report was “a bad, or evil (Hebrew dibbah, “to slander, whisper, or defame”) report” and therefore a “false report.[114]  And Miss Cosner expands on this, claiming that “the spies’ report was called an ‘evil’ report, or a ‘lying’ report,[115] it was a “lying report … they were lying,[116] and “the report of the spies is called an ‘evil’ report and a ‘lying’ report.[117]  She explains that the reason the spies lied about the nephilim was to scare the Israelites, who remembered them, and buttresses her claim that the spies were lying by pointing out that

there is no mention of Nephilim when they actually entered the land, or at any time subsequent.[118]

Nonsense.  This is all nonsense.  First, contra Miss Cosner, the report of the spies is never called a “lying” report; it is not even called a “false” report, despite what Bates says.  What it is called is a הדִּבָּ (“dibbah”), translated as “bad report” in the NKJV, NASB, and ESV, and as “evil report” in the KJV.

What does dibbah mean?  This word occurs only nine times in the OT.  According to BDB, it means “whispering” (in Psalm 31:13 and Jeremiah 20:10), “defamation” (in Proverbs 10:18), or “evil report, specif. a (true) report of evil doing” (in Genesis 37:2; Proverbs 25:10; and Ezekiel 36:3).  Included under this third meaning is the “unfavourable report of spies Nu 1332 1436,37.”[119]

So not only does dibbah not mean a lying or false report, the context indicates that the spies were not, in fact, lying about this.  They first affirm that the land is good and rich, but then warn that the people who dwell in the land, including the descendants of Anak, the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, are strong and they dwell in large, fortified cities (Numbers 13:27-29).  When Caleb calls for an immediate invasion, the spies urge against it, giving

a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the nephilim (the sons of Anak from the nephilim); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:32b-33)

There are two things that are crucial to note.  First, Caleb does not contradict their report about the inhabitants of the land.  He does not say they are not strong or of great stature, nor does he say that there were no nephilim in the land.  What Caleb and Joshua do say is that they ought not to fear the people because God is with the Israelites (Numbers 14:6-9).  If the spies had been lying about there being nephilim in the land simply to scare the Israelites, as Miss Cosner suggests, one would expect that Caleb and Joshua would point that out at this time.

Bates’ other attempt to prove that the spies lied is also a failure.  He asks, “How can we be sure that it was a false report?” and answers that we can be sure because those spies died in the subsequent plague sent by God (Numbers 14:37) “because they brought back an untruthful report.[120]  No, it was because they persuaded the people that they could not trust God to give them victory over the strong inhabitants of the land; that is what the text says they did.

Finally, what about Miss Cosner’s attempt to buttress the idea that the spies lied about the nephilim by pointing out that “there is no mention of Nephilim when they actually entered the land, or at any time subsequent”?[121]  This argument is senseless.  As we have seen, the best understanding of nephilim is as “mighty warriors,” so what the spies said was, “we saw mighty warriors, the sons of Anak of the mighty warriors.”  So the nephilim in the spies’ report were the Anakim, who are certainly mentioned in the conquest story (Joshua 11:21-22, 14:12).[122]

In sum, what we have seen is an example of the fact that wrong presuppositions lead to bad exegesis.  Those who hold to the untenable view that the nephilim were angel/human hybrids who were wiped out by the flood must necessarily believe that they could not have been in Canaan in the mid 15th century BC.  Therefore, they must explain away the spies’ report of nephilim in the land of Canaan at that time.  The explanation they choose is that the spies were lying about that.

However, a careful examination of the Hebrew text has shown that that explanation is impossible, and we cannot torture the text simply to hold onto a preconceived idea.  There being nephilim in the land at the time of spies is completely consistent with the explanation of Genesis 6:1-4 that has been offered in this paper, whereas it is irreconcilable with the bad sci-fi idea that the nephilim were angel/human hybrids.  This is further evidence that this latter view is simply a nonstarter.


APPENDIX 3: ARE DEMONS FALLEN ANGELS?

As part of his case for seeing the nephilim as angel/human hybrids, Bates floats the bizarre idea that demons are not fallen angels but are something else entirely. He avows that

A few apologists suggest that fallen angels are distinctly different from demons, based on the view that wherever demons are mentioned in Scripture, they seem to require embodiment in a biological creature, whereas angels do not.  These apologists believe that demons are the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim destroyed in the Flood.[123]

Even before we examine this idea, we should note that while these “few apologists” give a putative reason (which we show to be bogus) for distinguishing between fallen angels and demons, they give not a scintilla of evidence that “demons are the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim destroyed in the Flood.”  This is baseless fantasy, nothing more than another example of bad B-grade sci fi.

How does Bates even try to justify this outlandish idea? He tells us that

Interestingly, the apocryphal (non-canonical) book of Enoch also describes the spirits of the Nephilim as evil spirits roaming about the earth.[124]

Once again, the Book of Enoch is a collection of Jewish fables with no credibility whatsoever, and it cannot be used to prove anything.

Bates then actually attempts to adduce Biblical support for this view, arguing that “An account that would seem to support this idea is found in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5,[125] whereupon he cites the account of the exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5:2-13. How, pray tell, does this account support the view that demons are different from fallen angels?  Says Bates,

Note how the demons requested permission to possess the pigs.[126]

Is Bates being serious here?  Does he really think that the fact that the demons asked to be sent into the pigs in any way proves that demons are different from fallen angels?  At most, he can use this account to try to prove that demons “seem to require embodiment in a biological creature,[127] which would be only the first step towards making his view plausible.  But it is a failure, as even a cursory examination of the Bible shows.  Jesus Himself says that

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

So we have Jesus’ own testimony that demons can indeed exist and walk among us without being embodied in a “biological creature.”  It is not clear how Bates missed this obvious fact.  It is clear that this obvious fact obviates any attempt to draw a distinction between fallen angels and demons on the basis of a supposed need of demons for embodiment “in a biological creature.

Bates tries another gambit to convince us that demons and fallen angels are two distinct entities, arguing that

in the New Testament, the expressions ‘demon’ and ‘evil spirit’ (as apposed to just ‘spirit’ or even ‘ministering spirits’) seem to be interchangeable.[128]

His contention seems to be that demons are specifically “evil spirits,” whereas angels are simply called “spirits” (or “ministering spirits”), so there must be a distinction between demons and fallen angels.

Again, a look at what the Bible actually says blows Bates’ argument out of the water.  Consider, for example, Matthew 8:16:

When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. (Matthew 8:16).

Here “demons” are called simply “spirits.”  Furthermore, in Luke 9:38-42, “spirit,” “demon,” and “unclean spirit” are all used of the same entity.

Bates has one more gambit to try.  He appeals to 1 Timothy 4:1: “The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (emphasis mine 1 Timothy 4:1)[129] and suggests that “This seems to distinguish between spirits and demons.[130]

However, the only distinction evident in the text is between following demons directly, presumably through some form of occultic activity, and following doctrines that they themselves may not have obtained directly from demons but which did originate with demons.[131]

Interestingly, if Bates thinks that the word “and” (Greek καί “kai”) which he emphasized indicates a distinction between the two entities that are joined by “and,” then he should take a careful look at Luke 20:34-36:

Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

By the measure Bates uses, he must concede that this seems to distinguish between “angels” and “sons of God”!

Bates’ statement, then, that “The view that the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim are demons is a radical view, but it does have some scriptural support[132] is fatuous.  The few crumbs that he offers utterly fail to demonstrate a difference between demons and spirits, and none of them even hints at a link to the nephilim.  Why Bates would say there is “some scriptural support” for this view is unfathomable.

One final point on this issue: Henry Morris, a proponent of the failed angel/human reproduction fantasy says,

Whenever angels have appeared visibly to men, as recorded in the Bible, they have appeared in the physical bodies of men.  Those who met with Abraham, for example, actually ate with him (Genesis 18:8).[133]

In a similar vein, Lita Cosner writes,

Angels are spiritual beings … [who] have been known in Scripture to manifest in our realm using corporeal bodies which can eat and so presumably carry out all normal human body functions, including reproduction.[134]

It should be glaringly obvious that Morris is correct in that if angels manifested in physical form and reproduced with human females, their physical forms must have been human, too, as only humans can reproduce with humans.  CMI is stridently insistent that creatures can only reproduce according to their own created “kinds,” or baramin.”

CMI functionary Don Batten, for example, writes,

Things reproduce according to their kind, just like the Bible says (Genesis 1:11,12,21,24,25).  They always have and they always will—while ever this world exists.[135]

Similarly, Jeffrey Dykes writes,

“In the beginning” God created and programmed living things to reproduce “according to their kinds” (Genesis 1:1,20-28).[136]

These are just two examples of many in which CMI writers affirm this fact.  It is not surprising, then, that CMI correctly states that Neanderthals and Denisovans were fully human, inasmuch as they interbred with other humans.[137]

The upshot of this should be clear: if angels manifested in physical form and interbred with humans, that physical form must have been human; angels do not have the power to overrule God’s creation design according to which creatures can only reproduce according to their own kind.  The offspring would be like the offspring of “modern” humans reproducing with Neanderthals or Denisovans; the offspring would be fully human.  So if the offspring of angel/human interbreeding were the nephilim, as Bates maintains, the nephilim must have been fully human.

Now, as we have seen, Gary Bates seems to agree with the idea that demons are actually the “disembodied spirits of the Nephilim.[138]  But since the nephilim had to have been fully human (according to CMI’s claims about reproduction), this view would maintain that the disembodied spirits of dead people were roaming the earth.[139]  Ironically, Bates himself has pointed out that

A Bible-first approach will demonstrate to us that the idea of the disembodied spirits of deceased human beings roaming the Earth would contravene some very basic principles of God’s Word and would cast serious doubt on the Gospel itself.[140]

The idea, then, that demons are the disembodied spirits of nephilim is a non-starter.  There is no reason to think of demons as anything other than fallen angels.


APPENDIX 4: AN ASSESSMENT OF JONATHAN SARFATI’S CASE IN THE GENESIS ACCOUNT

Creation Ministries International’s Chief Scientist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati has recently published a new book entitled The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11.[141]  In this book, Sarfati offers a detailed exposition of his view of Genesis 6:1-4,[142] which is the same as that of his co-worker Gary Bates, viz. that this passage describes angels having conjugal relations with human females and spawning offspring that were the nephilim.

Since much of his argumentation is the same as Bates’, it is not necessary to respond in detail to those claims we have already examined.  Accordingly, we will move quickly through his material and focus mainly on those additional contentions Sarfati offers that we have not yet considered.

Sarfati begins by rightly rejecting the view that the “sons of God” were the descendants of Seth,[143] but then he wrongly asserts that “the correct history of what happened is explained in the next section”,[144] where he expounds his view that Genesis 6:1-4 describes angels marrying human females and spawning the nephilim.

Sarfati starts his proof by averring that “sons of God” (b’nei hā-’ӗlōhȋm, בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים) “is consistently used of angels in the Old Testament.[145] (p. 475).  We have already seen that this is not the case.  Sarfati actually states that this term “is consistently used of angels in the Old Testament, both good and bad”,[146] which is passing strange, in light of the fact that the expression is used only three times outside of Genesis 6:1-4, and in not one of those cases is the reference to “bad” angels.  There is no apparent basis for this claim, unless one assumes that “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1-4 refers to bad angels, which, of course, would be begging the question.

Next, Sarfati appeals to the LXX, claiming that this ancient translation “even renders the phrase ‘the sons of God’ as hoi angeloi tou theou (οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ), ‘the angels of God … Thus the LXX reflected the common Jewish understanding of this phrase as ‘angels’.[147]  Regrettably, he overlooks the fact that in the two occurrences in question, in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4, the LXX translators did not translate בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים as οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ, but left it as “the sons of God” (οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ).  If, as Sarfati maintains, it was “the common Jewish understanding” that this phrase meant “angels,” then the fact that the LXX translators did not translate it as “angels” in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4 speaks against Sarfati’s interpretation.

Then, as Gary Bates did, Sarfati tries to dragoon passages that do not actually use the expression “sons of God,” including Psalm 29:1, 89:6, and 82:6, in support of his view.  Unlike Bates, he completely ignores Hosea 1:10, which uses an expression much closer to “sons of God” than the expressions in Psalm 29:1, 89:6, and 82:6, and clearly refers to the covenant people.  And, as we have seen, the expression in Hosea 1:10 is more than enough to put paid to the claim that “sons of God” always refers to angels – if indeed it ever does.[148]

Then Sarfati claims that

Angels in the Bible are always male.[149]

It is not clear that this is true, as it is difficult to see the “women” in Zechariah 5:9 (“Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were two women, coming with the wind in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven”) as something other than angels.  But even it if is true, it is irrelevant, for Sarfati is incorrect in maintaining that the use of “sons of God” and “daughters of men” in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4 “makes no sense if it was just one group of humans marrying another”;[150] we have shown how it makes sense.

Next, Sarfati appeals to the fact that

the oldest Jewish commentaries about this passage thought that ‘sons of God’ were angels.[151]

He cites Josephus and the Book of Enoch, and quotes Fruchtenbaum, who appeals to the Genesis Apocryphon and the Zadokite Document (which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls); the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, and seven pseudepigraphical books.[152]  The obvious problem with this line of argument is that “the oldest Jewish commentaries about this passage” are not nearly old enough; the earliest was written well over one thousand years after Genesis, so there is no reason to think the writers had any access to reliable information about what was happening in Genesis 6:1-4.  Why Sarfati thinks that these Jewish fables are to be trusted on this matter is not clear.

Fruchtenbaum, by the way, embarrasses himself by actually appealing to Canaanite religious mythology (yes, that Canaanite religious mythology that was roundly condemned by the one true God), saying that

In the Ugaritic texts, the god El married the daughters of men by whom he had two sons, Shcht and Shim, who both became gods.[153]

For some reason, Fruchtenbaum misses the fact that “gods” are not “angels,” so while he might want to conclude that “the term sons of God in Genesis 6:2 refers to ‘angelanity,[154] a more appropriate term for his suggestion is “inanity.”

Sarfati continues by appealing to 2 Peter 2:4-8 and Jude 6-7;[155] we have already seen why these fail to make the case for his view.  Sarfati tries to make a point of Peter’s use of the Greek term ταρταρόω (“tartaroō”, “cast into Tartarus”), suggesting that “Tartarus seems to have been a section of Sheol or Hades, the abode of the dead, where these evil angels were confined until the final judgment, hence ‘bound in chains’,[156] and then argues that the sin of these angels who married human females “was so grievous that they were not free to roam for a time as other sinning angels were.[157]  The problem with this is that we see at least one example in the New Testament of the fact that demons can be cast down to Sheol and no longer allowed to roam the earth, in Luke 8:31, and it has nothing to do with angels marrying human females.

Incidentally, after telling us that “the Greek myths likewise had a Tartarus, an extremely deep pit where the worst enemies of the Gods were combined”, Sarfati states that

Rather than Jude borrowing from the Greeks, it’s more likely that the Greeks borrowed from a Jewish tradition.[158]

His sole support for that claim is the bald assertion of a Bible scholar who lived in the 18th/19th century.[159]  However, the fact that Hebrew had only one word, לשְׁאוֹ (“she’ōl”), for the abode of the dead, whether good or evil, and Greek distinguished among παράδεισος (“paradeisos” = paradise), ᾅδης (“hadēs” = Hades), and τάρταρος (“Tartaros” = Tartarus, “hell”), makes it highly unlikely that the Greeks got the idea of Tartarus from the Jews.

Finally, Sarfati insists that

If Genesis 6 is not referring to sinning angels, 2 Peter and Jude are left dangling without any prior biblical referent.[160]

Yet as we saw earlier, these passages are quite intelligible without any resort to the idea that angels married human females.

Sarfati then turns his attention to “Objections to angelic theory,[161] and here he commits his cardinal error; like Bates, he does not take Jesus’ words in Luke 24:39 into consideration.  As we have seen, Jesus proves His bodily resurrection by appeal to the fact that spirits (and angels are spirits) do not have flesh and bone, a proof that is destroyed if angels could indeed conjure up physical bodies for themselves so that they could have conjugal relations with human females.  Yet the word of Jesus trumps all other arguments, and so the view championed by Sarfati and Bates and others is a non-starter.  After all, it is needful to give more weight to the words of the Lord than to “Jewish fables” and pagan religious myths.

Yet even in the objections Sarfati does address, there are some blunders.  Regarding the objection “The NT uses the phrase ‘sons of God’ for beings other than angels’,[162]  Sarfati argues that “the common feature of these usages is direct creation by God[163] – which is clearly not the case in Matthew 5:9 (“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God”).  He asserts that

in Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3:38, Adam is called ‘the son of God’, precisely because he was directly created by God, lacking any parents.[164]

Yet Adam is not actually called “the son of God” in Luke 3:38.  The Greek reads, “τοῦ Ἐνὼς τοῦ Σὴθ τοῦ Ἀδὰμ τοῦ θεοῦ,” which is “of Enos, of Seth, of Adam, of God”; the word “son” does not appear in the verse.

Even more careless is the assertion that

Christians are “all sons of God” (Galatians 3:36).  Note that although Paul is explicit that this includes both male and female believers (3:28), it is important to retain the reading ‘sons’, not use ‘inclusive langage’ like ‘children.’  That’s because believers are “heirs according to the promise” (3:29), and only sons in Paul’s culture had inheritance rights.  So when Paul uses ‘sons’, he is actually emphasizing that believing women are joint-heirs with believing men.”[165]

It is difficult to discern how these CMI functionaries missed the fact that the NT actually uses the expression “children of God” more often than it uses “sons of God.”[166]  It seems that John and Paul – and the Holy Spirit – did not get Sarfati’s memo that “it is important to retain the reading “sons”, not use ‘inclusive language’ like ‘children.’

What is particularly droll is that Sarfati says that

it is important to retain the reading ‘sons’, not use ‘inclusive language’ like ‘children’ … because believers are ‘heirs according to the promise’ (3:29), and only sons in Paul’s culture had inheritance rights.[167]

Yet the word of God says,

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ … (Romans 8:14-17a)

Paul uses the the term “sons of God” in 8:14, but uses “children of God” in 8:16, and specifies that we are heirs because we are “children” of God, not because we are “sons” of God.  This is a salutary reminder that the word of God is not subordinate to the culture of the day.

Having failed to establish his contention that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4 were angels who had conjugal relations with human females, Sarfati goes on to discuss the nephilim as if they were the hybrid offspring of such relations.  We have already debunked the arguments for this view, so here too we will move quickly through his material and focus mainly on any additional contentions he may offer that we have not yet considered.

For example, Sarfati turns his attention to the LXX translation of nephilim in Genesis 6:4 as γίγαντες and asserts that this word “could be a word play, from (earth) and gennaō (γεννάω give birth to)[168] and that the translators “chose a term that emphasized beings of a quasi-divine parentage – born from the earth goddess, and beings in rebellion against the gods.  These factors, more than huge size, were likely responsible for the choice.[169]  Then, because the nephilim are described in Genesis 6:4 as “the mighty men who were of old, men of renown,” Sarfati suggests that

the LXX translators also knew of the Greek legends of renowned heroes who were half men and half god.  One famous example is Heracles … Heracles actually fought against the Giants and the Titans, but it’s understandable that the LXX translators conflated them in their translation.[170]

That is a lot of assumptions to be making without any evidence.  The singular of γίγαντες is γίγας, which actually doesn’t look much like it came from γεννάω; indeed, “Derivation from gegenes ‘earth-born’ is considered untenable.[171]  The Greek γίγαντες were not of “quasi-divine parentage,” as Sarfati puts it, but of divine parentage, which would make them gods, not angel/human hybrids.

And Sarfati’s attempt to put a negative spin on the term “mighty men” (הַגִּבֹּרִיםha-gibbōrim,” sing. and without the article רגִּבּוֹ “gibbōr”) by passing on a suggestion that they were mighty in their rebellion against God[172] (when there is no hint in Genesis 6 that they were, in fact, rebelling against God) and that “the same word in its singular form gibbōr is used to describe the early post-flood tyrant Nimrod[173] is embarrassing.  There is no hint in the Bible that Nimrod was a tyrant,[174] but even if he was, the same term is used of the Messiah Himself, in Isaiah 9:6:

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

and the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God (רגִּבּוֹ לאֵ, “El gibbōr”),

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

That would seem to negate the idea that the connotation of this term is negative.

Sarfati then discusses the meaning of the term nephilim, insisting that

the Hebrew word means “fallen ones” or “those who fall upon others”.[175]

As we have seen, this is possible but by no means certain.  But even if it correct, it does not indicate that the nephilim were angel/human hybrids, rather than believers who fell away from the faith.

Next, Sarfati discusses the mention of nephilim in Canaan in Numbers 13:33, and, like Bates and Miss Cosner, asserts that

we should not presume that those 10 spies were telling the truth.[176]

The only support Sarfati supplies for this bald assertion is a bald assertion by Fruchtenbaum that

the reported existence of the Nephilim after the Flood was a lie of the ten spies, as they tried to discourage the people.[177]

But one bald assertion cannot be proven by another bald assertion; we have already seen that the claim that the ten spies lied is utterly unsustainable.  Fruchtenbaum goes on to say, “When Joshua conquers the land, he never runs into any Nephilim.  Therefore it seems apparent that these Nephilim were the product of the intermarriage of the fallen angels and human women”;[178] it would be hard even to imagine a more blatant non sequitur than that offered here by Fruchtenbaum.

Sarfati concludes his case with a section entitled “Comparing the different views,[179] though he doesn’t really do that here.  What he does is offer two quotes from different writers.  Gordon Wenham tells us that view championed by Sarfati is “that of most modern commentators … The Sethite interpretation … has few advocates today.[180]  If that is true, it is irrelevant, inasmuch as truth is not determined by majority opinion.

Sarfati’s other quote is from Robert C. Newman, who also agrees with Sarfati’s view of Genesis 6:1-4.  While he allows that “part of the evangelical resistance to the supernatural interpretation is exegetical and part is theological,” he suggests that

some resistance [to this view] seems to be due to rationalistic assumptions.  Especially in the fields of science, history and Biblical studies, a ‘minimal-miracle’ stance may be adopted …[181]

No, Newman, it is not due to “rationalist assumptions.”  It is due to the fact that this view is flatly contradicted by Jesus’ own words that spirits (and angels are spirits) do not have physical flesh and bone bodies – ever.  If they did, then Jesus’ own proof for His resurrection was deceptive and invalid.  That should settle the matter.

Sarfati has spilled a lot of ink defending his view of angels having conjugal relations with human females.  He had appealed to Scripture, though he has failed to make his case from it; he has appealed to bald assertions (his own and others); to Jewish fables; and even to pagan religions.  But through it all, he has not considered Luke 23:39.  This omission is inexplicable, and it is the reason that his case is wrong.  The view argued earlier, that Genesis 6:1-4 is about believers intermarrying with unbelievers and falling from the faith remains the best understanding of this passage.[182]


Endnotes

[1] Radmacher, Earl D. Gen. Ed., Ronald B. Allen. OT Ed., and H. Wayne House. NT Ed. NKJV Study Bible. Second Edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007, p. 17

[2] Bates, Gary. Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection. Master Books, 2005, p. 381

[3] The word is absent in Joshua 17:15 in the LXX.

[4] In fact, raphaim appears four times in 2 Samuel 21:16-22, and the LXX transliterates the first three as raphain and translates the fourth as “giants”!

[5] While it doesn’t seem possible to interchange nephilim and “giants,” it is possible that large physical stature was a characteristic of the nephilim, a fact known in the days when the LXX was translated, but subsequently forgotten.

[6] Sarfati, Jonathan. Response to Daniel R., Canada, 18 August 2012, in Wieland, Dr. Carl and Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. “Some bugs do grow bigger with higher oxygen.” Journal of Creation 25:1 (April, 2011). Posted at http://creation.com/oxygen-bigger-bugs.  (The Response to Daniel R. was not in the original journal article.)

[7] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville, London, Vancouver, and Melbourne: Word Publishing, 1997, p. 24

[8] ibid.

[9] Morris, Henry M. The Genesis Record: A scientific & devotional commentary on the book of beginnings. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976, p. 172

[10] Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. (TWOT) Volume II. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980, p. 587.  (Bolding added.)

[11] Walton, John H., Victor H. Matthews & Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 36.  (Bolding and underlining added.)

[12] TWOT, Volume II, p. 587.  (Bolding added.)

[13] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 382

[14] ibid., p. 386

[15] ibid.  (Bolding and underlining added.)  Bates no doubt means “raises the question” here, not “begs the question.”

[16] There is one passage (Genesis 20:17) in which it is stated that women bore, without any mention of the offspring at all.

[17] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p.385.  This is the same sort of point we made regarding the nephilim; if the nephilim were the offspring of the union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men,” why didn’t the text say “they bore nephilim to them”?

[18] Walton, op. cit., p. 36.  Walton et al suggest that “It is more likely that this is a reference to the ‘right of the first night’ … The king could exercise his right, as representative of the gods, to spend the wedding night with any woman who was being given in marriage … If this is the practice referred to here, it would offer an explanation of the nature of the offense.”  This cannot be seen as anything other than a wild guess, and since the language of the passage is that used for actual marriage, it is unlikely.

[19] NKJV Study Bible, p. 17.  Allen is the OT editor of this book, and since no other writer is stipulated for the study notes to Genesis, we assume that they are the work of Allen.

[20] MacArthur, p. 24

[21] Morris, op. cit., pp. 165-166

[22] Batten, Dr. Don, Ed., Dr. David Catchpoole, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, and Dr. Carl Wieland. The Creation Answers Book, Creation Book Publishers, 2012, p. 141

[23] Bates, Alien Intrusion, pp. 382-390

[24] ibid., p. 382

[25] ibid., p. 383

[26] ibid., pp. 386-387

[27] ibid., p. 387

[28] ibid., p. 388

[29] ibid., p. 389

[30] ibid., p. 390

[31] ibid., pp. 383-384

[32] ibid., p. 383.  (Bolding and underlining added.)  Morris (op. cit., p. 166) similarly argues that “When Jesus said that the angels of God in heaven do not marry, this does not necessarily mean that those who have been cast out of heaven were incapable of doing so.”

[33] ibid., pp. 383-384.  (Bolding and underlining added.)

[34] ibid., p. 382

[35] “As for the term ‘poorly attested’, if a word occurs thousands of times, it is well attested; if it occurs only once or twice, it is not.” (Cosner, Lita. “London Times reports that the Bible is not anti-female; is this news?” Posted on February 24, 2009, at http://creation.com/london-times-reports-that-the-bible-is-not-anti-female-is-this-news#endRef4)

[36] Allen’s suggestion is even more outré, viz. that “Job 1:6 presents Satan and his angels coming into the presence of the Lord for an audience with His Majesty.  Satan’s angels are there called “the sons of God.” (Allen, p. 17)

[37] Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26

[38] 1 Chronicles 17:13, 22:10, 28:6; Isaiah 43:6; Ezekiel 16:21; Matthew 5:45; Romans 9:26; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 4:5-6; Ephesians 1:5

[39] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 382.  (Italics added.)

[40] ibid., p. 383

[41] In fact, the parallelism in Psalm 89:5, in which a line describes what happens in heaven and then the following line describes what happens on earth, suggests the same sort of parallel in 89:6, so that bene elim are people on earth, not angels in heaven.

[42] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 382.  (Italics added.)

[43] ibid.

[44] ibid., p. 385.  This is the same sort of point we made regarding the nephilim; if the nephilim were the offspring of the union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men,” why didn’t the text say “they bore nephilim to them”?

[45] ibid., p. 382.  (The advice was given in regard to Hosea 1:10.)

[46] Job 38:7 reads “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”.

[47] Even in Job 38:7, it is not clear that “sons of God” refer to angels.  See Appendix 1 for details.

[48] Morris, op. cit., p. 165

[49] ibid.

[50] ibid.

[51] MacArthur, p. 24

[52] Allen, in Radmacher, op. cit., p. 17

[53] Carter, Dr. Robert, in “The watchers and genetic diversity” (Feedback 2014). Posted at http://creation.com/watchers-genetic-diversity

[54] Sarfati, Jonathan. “Why Bible history matters (and the timing of the Fall and Ark-building).” Creation 33:4 (October 2011). Posted at https://creation.com/bible-history-fall-ark.  While Sarfati doesn’t explicitly say that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are angels, he does, to explain his statement “when ‘sons of God’ were mating with the daughters of men in Genesis,” tell his readers to “See Batten, D., ed., Creation Answers Book, ch. 9.” where that very view is promulgated.

[55] Cosner, Lita. “The global flood – according to the New Testament.” Posted on May 24, 2012, at https://creation.com/nt-global-flood and Cosner, Lita and Gary Bates. “Is God inconsistent?” Posted on February 4, 2014, at http://creation.com/is-god-inconsistent

[56] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 383

[57] Carter, op. cit.

[58] What is truly astounding is that, after saying this, Carter avers that the article by Bates that we are examining “is the single best analysis of the biblical statements on this subject of which I am aware.”  This despite the fact that Bates appeals to the book of Enoch, the book of Jasher (which has long been known to be an outright fraud), and the testimony of people who believe they have been abducted by space aliens.

[59] Bates, Alien Intrusion, pp. 386-387

[60] Bauer, Walter, W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and F.W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. (BDAG). Third Edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 137-138

[61] BDAG, p. 115

[62] BDAG, p. 695

[63] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 387

[64] As we are seeing, however, it is conceptually impossible.

[67] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 385.  This is the same sort of point we made regarding the nephilim; if the nephilim were the offspring of the union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men,” why didn’t the text say “they bore nephilim to them”?

[68] ibid., p. 387

[69] ibid., p. 388

[70] ibid., p. 389

[71] Carter, op. cit.

[72] Morris, op. cit., p. 166

[73] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 383.  (Bolding and underlining added.)  Morris (op. cit., p. 166), as we have seen, similarly argues that “When Jesus said that the angels of God in heaven do not marry, this does not necessarily mean that those who have been cast out of heaven were incapable of doing so.”

[74] This is the fatal error committed by those who try to justify allowing women to hold authoritative teaching positions vis-à-vis Christian men in church settings.  They gather NT examples that they claim (wrongly) show women holding such positions and then try to use them to overturn the clear teachings of didactic passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12-14.  See Tors, John. “Women and Church Leadership: An Inquiry and a Response to Pastor Keith A. Smith’s ‘Can Christian Women Be Pastors and Preachers?’” at https://truthinmydays.com/women-and-church-leadership-an-inquiry-and-a-response-to-pastor-keith-a-smiths-can-christian-women-be-pastors-and-preachers/.

[75] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 383.  (Bolding and underlining added.)

[76] Tors, John. “The Irrefutable Case for the Resurrection: How David K. Clark’s Risible ‘Betting on Jesus: The Vanishing of the Christ’ (Free Inquiry, April/May 2014) Strengthens the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” at https://truthinmydays.com/the-irrefutable-case-for-the-resurrection-how-david-k-clarks-risible-betting-on-jesus-the-vanishing-of-the-christ-free-inquiry-aprilmay-2014-strengthens-the-case-for/

[77] Bates, Alien Intrusion, pp. 383-384

[78] Bates, Alien Intrusion, pp. 383-384

[79] Cosner, “The global flood,” op. cit.

[80] Cosner, Lita. Response to Lee P. in “Ghosts, experience, and the Bible.” Posted on March 18, 2012, at http://creation.com/ghosts-experience

[81] Bates, Gary. “Are ghosts real? Are people really communicating with the spirits of the dead?” (No date, but “this updated and expanded version replaces the original article posted on 28 December 2010.” At http://creation.com/are-ghosts-real.)

[82] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 384

[83] Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs. The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon (BDB). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979, p. 87

[84] TWOT, Volume I, p. 39

[85] Cosner, “The global flood,” op. cit.

[86] ibid.

[87] Carter, op. cit.

[88] Bates, “Are ghosts real?” op. cit.

[89] Of course God could create a body for an angel, though as we have seen the testimony is that He did not do so.  But He will not create bodies for evil angels to do evil things.  If those who agree with Bates’ view suggest that God did this, it would mean that God sent a worldwide flood in part to destroy the nephilim, the result of an unspeakably evil act that could happen only because God made bodies for evil angels so that they could commit this unspeakably evil act.  This is far beyond merely “incoherent.”

[90] Grigg, Russell. “A remarkable witness to creation – Satan.” Creation 30:2 (March 2008), pp.38–39. Posted at http://creation.com/a-remarkable-witness-to-creation-satan

[91] ibid.

[92] ibid.  (Bolding added.)

[93] ibid.  (Bolding and underlining added.)

[94] Wieland, Carl. Response to John T., Canada, 23 May 2012, in ibid.

[95] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 389

[96] ibid.

[97] Mormons believe their god has a body of flesh and bone.

[98] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 389

[99] CMI believes that humans are bipartite, thinking that spirit and soul are different designations for the same component.  For our following discussion, it matters not whether humans are seen as bipartite or tripartite.

[100] As we have seen, there is only one passage in the entire Bible in which “sons of God” can plausibly be seen as referring to angels.

[101] In Genesis 6:2 and 6:4, the specific term is “daughters of men,” not “children of men,” but in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4 it is only women who are being taken in marriage.  They would be part of the larger group “children of men.”

[102] MacArthur, op. cit.

[103] It is unlikely but possible that the following demonstrative pronoun “those” refers to the sons of God.

[104] TWOT, Volume I, p. 149

[105] In the two passages in 1 Chronicles, “name” is also in the plural, hence “men of names” שֵׁמֹות אַנְשֵׁי

[106] TWOT, Volume II, p. 587.  (Bolding added.)

[107] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 390

[108] ibid., p. 392

[109] ibid., pp. 393-394.  (Bolding and underlining added.)

[110] Cosner, Lita. Answer to Kevin B., Canada, 23 February 2014, in Carter, op. cit.

[111] Cosner, Lita. “The use of creation in the Old Testament.” Posted on September 10, 2013, at http://creation.com/genesis-ot.  (Bolding added.)

[112] ibid.

[113] ibid.

[114] Bates, Alien Intrusion, pp. 393-394

[115] Cosner, Lita. Answer to Kevin B., op. cit.

[116] Cosner. “The use of creation,” op. cit.

[117] ibid.

[118] ibid.

[119] BDB, p. 179.  It should be noted that there are perfectly good words in Hebrew for “lie” if that is what one wishes to say.  The most common is בכָּזָ “kazab.”  Also very common is רשֶׁקֶ “sheqer,” which is used mostly in Psalms and especially Jeremiah.  Words that are used a few times include כַּחַשׁ “kachash,” which appears only in Hosea and Nahum; דבַּ “bad,” which appears only in the plural and means idle or empty talk; and שָׁוְאshav”, which means vanity. “False report” in Exodus 23:1 is שָׁוְא שֵׁמַעshēma’ shav’.”

[120] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 394

[121] Cosner, “The use of creation,” op. cit.

[122] Even if we want to see nephilim as a separate ethnic group, we should note that the Israelites did not enter Canaan until forty years after the spies’ report, so if there had been such a group they could have died off (or been exterminated by their neighbours) in the forty years between the time the spies made their report and the time Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan.  In such a case, they would not have been mentioned at any later time.

[123] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 389

[124] ibid.

[125] ibid.

[126] ibid.  (Bolding added.)

[127] ibid.

[128] ibid.

[129] ibid., p. 390

[130] ibid.

[131] One example given in the passage is “forbidding to marry,” a doctrine that is contrary to God’s design for humanity and therefore seems to be demonic in origin, but candidates for the Roman Catholic priesthood do not get the doctrine directly from demons but from the magisterium of the Roman Catholic church.

[132] Bates, Alien Intrusion, p. 389

[133] Morris, p. 166

[134] Cosner, “The global flood,” op. cit.

[135] Batten, Don. “Dogs breeding dogs? That’s not evolution!” Creation 18:2 (March 1996). Posted at http://creation.com/dogs-breeding-dogs

[136] Dykes, Jeffrey. “Aye-aye: Madagascar’s mysterious ‘one-of-a-kind’.” Creation 31:1 (December 2008). Posted at http://creation.com/aye-aye

[137] Wieland, Carl and Robert Carter. “Not the Flintstones – it’s the Denisovans.” (January 25, 2011). Posted at http://creation.com/denisovan

[138] Bates, Alien Intrusion, pp. 389-390

[139] We have already shown from Jesus’ own words that demons do roam the earth.

[140] Bates, “Are ghosts real?” op. cit.

[141] Sarfati, Jonathan D. The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11. Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2015.

[142] ibid., pp. 473-488

[143] ibid., pp. 474-475

[144] ibid., p. 475

[145] ibid.

[146] ibid.  (Bolding added.)

[147] ibid., p. 476

[148] Sarfati (ibid., p. 476) also appeals to Daniel 3:25, in which a fourth man appears in the fiery furnace, and Nebuchadnessar opines that this one is like “the Son of God” (בַר־אֱלָהִֽין in Aramaic).  Yet Sarfati himself admits that this may not be an angel but a Christophany, undercutting his conclusion that “the OT and cognate languages uses ‘sons of God’ to mean ‘angels’ everywhere else.”  As if one example from Aramaic (which is in the singular, not in the plural, as in all the Hebrew examples), could establish what “cognate languages” do “everywhere” else!

[149] ibid.

[150] ibid., p. 477

[151] ibid.

[152] ibid.

[153] Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. The Book of Genesis. San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2009, p. 146; cited in ibid.

[154] ibid.

[155] ibid., pp. 478-479

[156] ibid., p. 478

[157] ibid.

[158] ibid.

[159] ibid.

[160] ibid., p. 479

[161] ibid., pp. 479-480

[162] ibid., p. 479

[163] ibid.

[164] ibid.

[165] ibid.  He cites Lita Cosner’s “The ‘gender neutral’ Bible: Emasculating Scripture for political correctness,” posted on September 10, 2009, at http://creation.com/gender-neutral-bible-translations for this tidbit.

[166] “Sons of God” is used in Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; Romans 8:14, 8:19, and Galatians 3:26. “Children of God” is used in John 1:12, 11:52; Romans 8:16, 8:21, 9:8; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:1, 3:2, 3:10, and 5:2

[167] ibid.  (Bolding added.)

[168] ibid., p. 484

[169] ibid.

[170] ibid.

[171] Harper, Douglas. “Online Etymology Dictionary” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=giant.  Harper lists a plethora of good sources that he uses.

[172] Sarfati, The Genesis Account, pp. 484-485

[173] ibid., p. 485

[174] Sarfati (ibid., pp. 659-660) cites a claim to this effect by Josephus, but we have no way of knowing whether Josephus, writing thousands of years after the events, was correct about this.

[175] Sarfati, The Genesis Account, p. 485

[176] ibid., p. 486

[177] Fruchtenbaum (op. cit., p. 150), quote in ibid.

[178] ibid., pp. 486-487.  (Bolding added.)

[179] Sarfati, The Genesis Account, pp. 487-488

[180] Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1-15 Taco, TX: 1987, pp. 139-140; cited in ibid., pp. 487-488

[181] Newman, Robert C. “The Ancient Exegesis of Genesis 6:2-4.” Grace Theological Journal 5:1 (1984), pp. 13-36; cited in Sarfati, The Genesis Account, p. 485

[182] Regarding the Sethite view, Sarfati asks (Sarfati, The Genesis Account, p. 475), “If it were merely human intermarriage, then one would expect it to go both ways.  That is, why not ‘the sons of men’ (Cainite men under this theory) and ‘the daughters of Elohim’ (Sethite women)?”  This question could be asked of our view as well, and the answer is that it seems the decision making was made by the men, not by the women, as has been the usual case in most cultures and at most times in history.  He also asserts that, ““The theory is self-refuting: if the ‘sons of God’ meant ‘godly people’, then why were they intermarrying with godless women in the first place?  While Paul would not write ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (2 Corinthians 6:14) until thousands of years later, this seems to be a moral law written into the hearts of believers much earlier.”  According to our view, the “sons of God” are the believers, and the fact that believers can indeed fall into such sins should be obvious to Sarfati; why does he think that God repeatedly warns against this if it can never happen?

Comments: 7

  1. dominic says:

    If the sons of God were angels , why would God create angels with semen (DNA) or body parts? They don’t need that, and God knows all things. thanks Dominic

  2. Saved.by.Grace says:

    A well reasoned and structured argument. I admit I skim read some portions, but I didn’t see the following addressed. Lot was very protective of the angels who came to save him and his family in Sodom. Why would he be afraid for the angels sake if they were pure spirit? Also, who did Jacob wrestle with?

    • John Tors says:

      Thank you for your kind words and good questions. Below is our answer:

      First, you ask, “Lot was very protective of the angels who came to save him and his family in Sodom. Why would he be afraid for the angels sake if they were pure spirit?” That is a puzzle only if Lot (a) knew they were angels, and (b) knew that angels were spirits.

      There is no compelling reason to think that Lot knew details about the nature of angels, and there is nothing in the narrative to suggest he knew the visitors to whom he gave hospitality were angels. Certainly they looked like men, and Lot does not show that he realizes they are more than that; how would he? Hebrews 13:2, in fact, may be referring to this very incident in saying, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unknowingly entertained angels.”

      As an aside, we should mention that Lot’s offer of his daughters to the attackers in place of the visitors is seen as a dreadful thing. However, I think Lot had lived among the people of Sodom long enough so that he knew exactly what they wanted and that they would not be interested in his daughters and would not take them. It seems likely, then, that he was simply stalling for time, hoping to find some sort of escape.

      Your second question is “who did Jacob wrestle with?” The incident is recorded in Genesis 32:24-32, and the being with whom Jacob wrestles is never actually called an angel in that passage! We have to go to Hosea 12:4 to see that Being being referred to as an angel. As to who He is, the answer is given when the Being says to Jacob in Genesis 32:28b “you have struggled with God,” and then we read that “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.’” (Genesis 32:30b).

      The idea conveyed by these is that this Being is actually God Himself, and that is supported by Hosea 12:3b-5, which reads:

      “And in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed;
      He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—That is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name.”

      Thus both Genesis 32 and Hosea 12 indicate that the Being with whom Jacob wrestled was God Himself, so it would be best to see the Being as a Theophany (a visible, and in this case, tangible appearance of God).

  3. Saved.by.Grace says:

    As to your second point, that is a questionable explanation when you consider John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12. But if you consider Enoch who walked with God and Adam and Eve, you can probably work around the referenced texts. It seems like no one does not always mean no one. I believe it has to do with the style of Jewish writing, but I could be mistaken.
    As for your first point, would Lot do the same for any travelers coming into the city of Sodom? Would any of us sacrifice our daughters to the wickedness of Sodom to save two strangers? Why were these strangers special to everyone who saw them?
    You really have a fantastic website. This particular passage has been one I’ve done a bit of studying on. Your explanation of “Nephilim” is certainly interesting and thought provoking. I thank you. I am going to reread your entire article at a much slower pace. I want to better understand your interpretation of Numbers 13:33, in particular, and the verses around it giving Joshua’s and Caleb’s report. If I’m wrong and the first proposal is not an accurate understanding of Scripture, I want to be corrected. Thank you for taking time with your reply and God bless you and your ministry.

    • John Tors says:

      Regarding my suggestion that Jacob wrestled with a Theophany (a visible manifestation of God), you question it on the basis of John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12, both of which say, “No one has seen God at any time.”

      On the other hand, in Exodus 24:9-11 we read, “Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

      The answer to this seeming contradiction is that what the elders of Israel saw was a Theophany, a visible manifestation of God, but not God qua God. The fact that God can be seen not in His full ontological entis but in a visible manifestation is actually clear from Jesus’ own words in John 14:9 “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” In seeing Jesus, a visible manifestation of God, they have seen God, though not in His full glory.

      That, then, is a Theophany, and it is reasonable to suppose, in light of his later comments, that Jacob wrestled with a Theophany. This is not a contradiction of John 1:18 or 1 John 4:12, any more than Exodus 24:9-11 is, since it is only a manifestation of God, and not God in His full nature and glory.

      Regarding your question about Lot, viz. “would Lot do the same for any travelers coming into the city of Sodom? Would any of us sacrifice our daughters to the wickedness of Sodom to save two strangers?” As I suggested previously, I do not think Lot would have sacrificed his daughters any more than we would. He had certainly lived among the people of Sodom long enough so that he knew exactly what they wanted – males – and so they would not be interested in his daughters and would spurn Lot’s offer. It seems likely, then, that he was simply stalling for time by offering his daughters, hoping to find some sort of escape.

      It is an interesting question you raise, “Why were these strangers special to everyone who saw them?” It is actually difficult to know whether people actually saw them as special. Abraham honoured them, certainly, but they were accompanying God at that time (there is another Theophany, in Genesis 18:1ff). Lot welcomed them humbly, but that may simply have been the hospitality to strangers that was so important in ancient near East cultures. And to the men of Sodom, they were simply prospective rape victims (and it is difficult to believe they would attempt such a thing on beings they knew to be angels).

      I hope this is helpful, and by all means if you have any further questions or comments, let us know. And thank you again for your encouraging words.

  4. Natnael Mekonnen says:

    I loved your reasoning and your argument sounds logical. However, I wanted a some clarification on the explanation regarding whether or not angles are capable of having body. Jesus did say, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones.” Yes, they normally don’t. But Jesus didn’t say ” they CAN’T have flesh and bone.” Is there no difference between me saying, ” You don’t have a candy” and ” You can’t have a candy”?

    • John Tors says:

      Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. (Luke 24:36-39)

      Jesus made the statement “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” to prove that it was indeed Himself resurrected in the body of His flesh. And since the resurrection was true, as He had foretold (e.g. Matthew 20:19, Mark 8:31, 9:31, John 2:18-22).

      What would it mean to say that spirits do not have bodies but that they can have bodies? Would it mean that at that very moment no spirit in existence happened to have flesh and bones, but at other times they could have flesh and bones? If so, what would that prove? Nothing. If angels could sometimes have physical bodies, we could never know that Jesus rose from the dead; it could have been an evil angel impersonating Jesus and bringing a false message.

      Therefore, I would consider it a nonstarter that Jesus meant that angels do not have bodies (at that moment) but can have them; it would make what He actually said completely meaningless and useless to prove that He Himself was present, having risen from the dead.

      English grammar is not the same as Greek grammar. The ἔχει (“have”) here seems to me to be a gnomic present, in which “the action or state or truth is true for all time – the past and future as well as the present. Such words as ‘always,’ ‘ever,’ and ‘never’ are often used in the translation.” (Brooks, James A. and Carlton L. Winbery. Syntax of New Testament Greek. Lanham, MD and London, England: University Press of America, 1979, p.87.)

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