Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

genesis-bible-book-of-moses

Questions are only natural.

Who are the sons of God? Are they angels? Demi-gods? Holy people? If they’re gods, then the Bible isn’t monotheistic, and angels are commonly thought to be creations like humans, not children of God. But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t? And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts? And why would they marry human women?

These questions are from the sixth chapter of Genesis, which is an account of the state of humanity leading up to the flood.

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Gen 6:1-2, emphasis mine)

This passage has created quite a stir in Christianity, unnecessarily in my opinion, because the answer that best fits the criteria I have set forth and that is also the most parsimonious is actually rather dull, especially compared to some of the more outlandish answers that some have given. “Who are the sons of God [mentioned in Genesis 6:2]?” They are simply the men who called upon the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 4:26)

Often we find that the Bible is its own best interpreter. When a term or phrase is confusing, sometimes we can get a better grasp on it by finding other examples of the term or phrase in other areas of scripture. In this case, our phrase is defined for us in the book of Romans.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom 8:14, emphasis mine)

So we see that the simplest reading of the text, and the one that fits the criteria for internal coherence with the rest of the narrative, points to the sons of God merely being men who were serving God the best way they knew how with the light they had at the time. HWT asked “But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t?” First, I’m not sure “holy men” is the right description. I try to serve God as well, but I in no way consider myself a “holy man.”  Also, I’m not sure I see that particular implication. There is no doubt that for whatever reason Enoch was special in God’s sight, and God “took him.” However the text doesn’t indicate that the rest of the people in Enoch’s time were “ungodly.”

And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts?

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(Gen 6:4-5)

This is a result of the sons of God becoming “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) with the daughters of men. Today’s equivalent would be a Christian marrying a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist. This type of marriage is typically detrimental to the Christian’s walk with God. In the days of Noah, there were no governments or laws such as we have in this day, and the evil in their hearts was unrestrained by the societal norms we have in this day. The men who were unequally yoked were turned from serving God by their wives, and/or their children were not taught to serve God by their mothers. Because of this their fallen and selfish natures were unrestrained by neither religion nor society. I imagine that it was a pretty dangerous time to live in.

My interpretation of “the sons of God” may be considered somewhat controversial by some, however it seems to be the answer that makes the most sense. The phrase is used in one instance (Job 38:7) where I struggle to make this interpretation make sense, but every other time it appears in the Bible, this interpretation fits nicely. To view the phrase as representing angels, as some have, just adds an additional level of complication to the narrative, much like the positing of the special creation of wives for the sons of Adam and Eve, complications which are never “worked out” subsequently in the narrative. In addition, the things that we do know about angels and biology through Biblical revelation seem to inveigh against angel/human marriage and reproduction.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

 

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7 Comments

  1. I’m not too keen on this interpretation, for two reasons.

    The first is that it seems to simply gloss over the connection between these “sons of God” and the Nephilim (which was rendered as “giants” in the translation you quoted from). The phrasing of the Hebrew is a bit ambiguous, but there does seem to be some connection between these two groups. Tertullian and other early Church Fathers definitely identified these “sons of God” with angels, largely on the basis of this connection.

    The second issue is one of hermeneutics. However, it might be alleviated if this is one of the points which you mentioned in your criteria as being a prior assumption that you don’t plan to defend in these posts. Basically, you seem to be assuming that the whole of the Bible is a single, contiguous document. I would contend that interpreting a passage in Genesis 4 by an unrelated passage written at least 600 years later by a different author, to a different people, for a different purpose, and in a different language (Romans) is entirely eisegetic.

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    • BP, thanks for your input. If it seemed like I was trying to “gloss over” anything please forgive me. I will address your second point first, about the differences between the books of Romans and Genesis. While I do see your point, remember that the Christian view is that the scriptures are inspired by God. So even though the books were written hundreds of years apart, they are complimentary and are part of the same narrative. So I have no problem interpreting something in Genesis with further information given in Romans. In fact the 5th chapter of Romans goes into detail about the fall of man that occurred in Genesis. I understand this to be “progressive revelation” and not eisegesis.

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      • I don’t think that you were intentionally glossing over anything; it just seemed odd to see a discussion of Genesis 6:4 which doesn’t mention the enigmatic Nephilim, as they have almost always been the focus of the discussions I’ve seen on this passage, dating as far back as Tertullian. Honestly, I was equally surprised that HWT chose to ask about the “sons of God” mentioned in this passage, rather than asking about the Nephilim.

        As for the second point, that’s completely understandable. As I said, I wasn’t sure if you were including the Christian idea of the cohesive narrative of the Bible as being among your presuppositions, in your first post on Criteria. On the basis of that presupposition, appealing to Romans for information about Genesis does make a bit more sense.

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        • Indeed. At this point I’m merely trying to show that the questions can be answed sensibly within the narrative. It’s tough to eat an elephant at one sitting so I’m trying to keep my meals down to “one bite at a time” if you take my meaning.

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          • Entirely understandable, and I actually know the feeling, quite well. Even from a purely secular, historical standpoint, I often find that I have to spend enormous amounts of time discussing why we should not simply dismiss everything in the Bible, out of hand, before I can support what ought to be a fairly simple conclusion.

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    • Regarding the nephilim and the sons of God:

      There were giants [nephilim] in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
      (Gen 6:4-5)

      So we see the nephilim became mighty men and men of renown. Let’s keep in mind the narrative here, where men were living to be hundreds of years old. Imagine large men, such as Goliath (of the sons of Anak, also nephilim) in David’s time, who lived very long lives, presumably with health and vigor, and who trained themselves in the combative arts, as you do BP. (Heck imagine yourself if you could train in MMA for a hundred years with youthful vigor… ) At any rate these “giants” in both stature and skill would likely rule over fiefdoms and spend their time in combat with rivals (other nephilim). I imagine the battles between these men were epic, and would actually have liked to have been there to see them were it not for a little thing called “the flood”.

      You mentioned Tertullian and other church fathers, and I do have respect for them, however I also understand they were men and not necessarily writing with inspiration in the sense the Biblical authors were. I tend to take a more common sensical approach to subjects like these where the simplest explanation that fits the narrative is most likely the correct one unless further revelation sheds additional light.

      If the sons of God were angels, and the nephilim were half-breed offspring, this introduces many unresolved issues into the narrative. For instance, angels seem to be immaterial beings with the ability to appear as humans, taking other texts into account. However it is not clear that God gave them the ability to reproduce among themselves, much less with human beings. In Genesis one God made the creatures to reproduce after their kind. Dogs can’t breed with cats, cows can’t breed with horses, so why should we think humans can breed with angels?

      Also, if the nephilim were such, why was God angry with man for the fiasco? Why not punish the angels who had produced the nephilim, and the nephilim themselves?

      These are just a few reasons why I have identified the “sons of God” as I have.

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  2. I’ll respond more fully, but I would like to hear your take on the matter, BP.

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