Hereinafter is specifically a review of the paper Lee Anderson, Jr.’s paper “Is “Sons of God” in Genesis 6 Adapted Pagan Mythology?” that was published in the Answers Research Journal, 8 (2015): 261–271. My focus will be on that which Anderson has to say about Angelology and Nephilology and not necessarily the issue of Pagan adaptations or not.
It is noted that S.R. Driver, “compares Genesis 6 to the ancient tales of ‘giants’ from Phoenicia, Greece, and other cultures” which is a comparison that can only viably be made about parentage, not about size since we have no reliable physical description of Nephilim and the term giants which some use to render (not translate) the Hebrew implies nothing about height, that is not the usage, it is not a descriptor.
…several views have been set forth to explain the identity of “the sons of God” in Genesis 6:2. Most of these views may be grouped into three main categories:
(1) views which assert that “the sons of God” were members of the godly line of Seth (cf. Genesis 5:3ff.) who married ungodly “daughters of men” (likely from the line of Cain, the reprobate); (2) views which hold that “the sons of God” were dynastic rulers who may have been considered semidivine and who acted in wickedness by marrying of “the daughters of men” “all which they chose” (KJV), which is taken to mean that polygamy was rampant; and (3) views that maintain that “the sons of God” were fallen angelic beings who, in rebellion, took to themselves human wives and bore offspring.
The 1-3 order is clearly arbitrary. He comments thusly upon the first, “The interpretation that ‘the sons of God’ were godly members of the line of Seth has been a common understanding since the early centuries of the Christian church, with Julius Africanus (c. 160–c. 240) ( 1994, 131) being the first of the church fathers to promote the view. This view later was popularized by Augustine (354–430) ( 1994, 304), and eventually adopted by the reformers Luther (1483–1546) (1958, 129) and Calvin (1509–1564) ( 1979, 238)” (brackets in original).
I will jump ahead and quote him to this affect, “The oldest exegetical position on the identity of ‘the sons of God’ is that they were fallen angels…This position remained the dominant interpretation until the Sethite view was popularized by Augustine.”
Now, as I prove in my book On the Genesis 6 Affair’s Sons of God: Angels or Not?: A Survey of Early Jewish and Christian Commentaries Including Notes on Giants and the Nephilim: to say, “has been a common understanding since the early centuries of the Christian church” may be as mistaken as that it was the popular or majority view, since it was most certainly not.
What is the case is that such a view was, “popularized by Augustine…popularized by Augustine” who was vastly influential.
But note the jump from 160–240 to over two centuries later, 354–430, to millennia later, 1483–1546 and 1509–1564.
Note also the reference to, “godly members of the line of Seth”: knowing this view as I do, I will at this point ponder if “godly members of” implies that some were not or if all Sethites are included in the grammatical structure of his sentence—stand by.
Anderson seeks to encapsulate the view by noting that is it proposed to be, “intermarriage between those faithful to Yhwh (ostensibly the line of Seth recorded in Genesis 5:3–32), and the unfaithful ‘daughters of men.’” Yet, “the precise formula בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים [bene’i ha Elohim] (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) is never used of humans” so that, “the Sethite view cannot adequately explain why the biblical author would take a precise formula that is elsewhere restricted to describing angelic beings (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) and use it to speak of a particular line of men.”
I said to stand by since the Sethite view is actually based on a myth of some sort of Godly line of Seth and ungodly line of Cain. An issue I oft raise when arguing against it is also why it is exclusively male sons of God/Sethites and exclusively female daughters of men/Cainites. I was pleased to see that Anderson picked upon on that as well, “why does the text mention only the godly men from the line of Seth who married ungodly women? What about the ‘daughters of God’ and the ‘sons of men’? Also, if ‘the sons of God’ were in fact godly men, why did they continue to seek out and marry women of ungodly character? Were there no attractive women who were also godly?”
Also, why, pray tell, have marriages between Godly and ungodly humans not led to subsequent floods since then? Anderson notes, that the view, “highlights the evil line of the reprobate Cain, culminating with the wicked Lamech, and then contrasts that with the line of Seth (Genesis 4:26ff.).”
See what I mean? A grand total of two people, Cain and Lamech (for whom we have the recording of one sin for the former and two for the latter) is enough to condemn an entire lineage/bloodline for some people and that, of course, juxtaposed with likewise generalizing about the entire, “line of Seth” who were so utterly holy that they married unholy women—go figure.
The Angel view explains why it was exclusive sexes on either side of the equation since when Angles are described, they are described as looking just like human males so it could only be females with whom they paired up. It also explains why no more subsequent floods which is because there have been no more subsequent marriages since there is a one time fall of Angels in the Bible and those Angels that thusly sinned were incarcerated (see Jude and 2 Peter 2).
The only similarity the Angel view has with the latter Sethite view is that is denotes holy beings committing unholy acts.
Yet, moving on to that view, Anderson notes, “in contesting the notion that ‘the sons of God’ must have been fallen angels, C. F. Keil argues, ‘If the title ‘sons of God’ cannot involve the notion of physical generation, it cannot be restricted to celestial spirits, but is applicable to all beings which bear the image of God [i.e., humans]’” (“Keil, C. F. (1866–1891) 2011. The Pentateuch. Vol. 1 of Commentary on the Old Testament. By C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch. Translated by J. Martin. Reprint, Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers”).
Note the qualifying terms, “sons of God…fallen angels…celestial spirits…bear the image of God” so that we must do some unpacking. On this view, some sons of God (as per Job 38:7 which has them as non-human beings) refers to Angels, some of whom fell. Yet, since Angles look like human males and there is no indication that such is not their nature then, by definition, they are not spirits.
Now, the argument was that sons of God cannot have referred to fallen Angels since they are supposedly being spirits, they cannot engage in physical generation since only those made in the image of God fit the bill. Yet, since Angels look like human males, we humans were made, “a little lower” (Psalm 8:5) than they, and we can successfully produce offspring with them then, by definition, we are of the same basic kind.
Moreover, the contra Angels and pro-Sethite argument implies:
…such an interpretation matches with the reasons offered in Genesis 6 for God’s resolve to send a global catastrophe to wipe out mankind: “And Yhwh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth . . .” (v. 5; cf. vv. 11–13).
Accordingly, this view connects Genesis 6:1–4 to the following narrative by putting the blame for God’s judgment squarely on the shoulders of the wicked human race.
As Sven Fockner keenly observes, “Because of the way the narrative is designed from Genesis 4 to Genesis 10, the reader expects the passage to deal with the two lines of humanity and the vanishing of one of them. . . . The flood resulted from the wickedness of the people. Before ch. 6, only the unbelievers were depicted as wicked (Lamech). Then the sons of God joined this group” (Fockner 2008, 455) (ellipses in original).
The point is clear, it is meant to emphasize that this was a strictly human vs. human issue or rather, human with human issue, “mankind…man…human race…humanity…people.”
Yet, since Angels are referred to as man/men, then so as Nephilim, and so the terms the Bible uses, typically translated as, “man…man…man…man” in Genesis 6: (KJV).
Moreover, “Another objection argues that the fallen angels view implicates God as unfairly punishing man for wrongs instigated and carried out by demons…this argument wrongly assumes that angelic wickedness in Genesis 6:1–4 is incompatible with the text’s assessment of the brutal wickedness of mankind in Genesis 6:5–7.”
I will swap “demons” with “Angels” and note that the issue is the same since man/men can refer to hummans, Angels, and Nephilim. Thus, Genesis 6 pertains to them all.
We then move on to a view that, “‘the sons of God’…were men in positions of high authority, dynastic rulers…This interpretation first arose in ancient Jewish writings (in the Aramaic Targums), and continued in popularity among Jewish interpreters in the middle ages down to the present day (Birney 1970, 47; Kline 1962, 194; cf. Zlotowitz 1988, 180–82.). The view is, however, a relative ‘newcomer’ to Christian interpretations of the identity of ‘the sons of God.’”
It is difficult to agree that it is found in, “ancient Jewish writings” without being told which Aramaic Targumim are being referenced. In reality, it is not only a, “relative ‘newcomer’ to Christian interpretations” but to Jewish ones as well since the original, traditional, and majority view among the earliest Jews and Christians alike is the Angel view—as I proved in my book On the Genesis 6 Affair’s Sons of God: Angels or Not?: A Survey of Early Jewish and Christian Commentaries Including Notes on Giants and the Nephilim.
Leroy Birney argues that magistrates or administrators of justice are called אֱלֹהִים [elohim] in Exodus 21:6; 22:8, 9, 28…used of them in Psalm 82:1, and the expression בְנֵי עֶלְיוֺן [ben Elion] (“sons of the Most High”) is used of the magistrates in verse 6…it was not uncommon to use divine epithets to refer to magistrates…the practice of using “divine” epithets to refer to human rulers has a long history among pagan nations…
Other interpreters, recognizing the apparent weakness of the dynastic rulers view from a lexical standpoint, have attempted to couple it with the fallen angels view (see below), arguing that the rulers in question were demon possessed.
Anderson notes, “while groups of rulers are occasionally referred to as ‘gods’ (אֱלֹהִים [elohim]) in Scripture, they are never referred to corporately as ‘sons of God’ (בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים).”
Yet, moreover, there is no such concept in the entire Bible about there being anything wrong—much less flood worthy—about cross-class marriages. It is simply unknown that there was condemnation, at any point in biblical history, between hoi polloi and, “men in positions of high authority, dynastic rulers…magistrates or administrators of justice…human rulers.”
This is tantamount to what Anderson notes about the assertion that the problem is said to have been just that plus that they were polygamous, “there is no convincing evidence to suggest that polygamy would have compelled the Lord to send the catastrophic Genesis Flood.”
A few other views are considered such as:
Lyle Eslinger, who states that “the daughters of men” in Genesis 6:2 refers to the female descendants of Seth (instead of Cain, as per the Sethite view), with “the sons of God” being the descendants of Cain (Eslinger 1979, 65–73).
The main basis for Eslinger’s argument is that Genesis 5 repeatedly mentions the offspring of Seth as having “other sons and daughters,” and that Genesis 4 describes the descendants of Cain who took to themselves wives (e.g., vv. 19–24).
However, as Wenham rightly observes, Eslinger does not offer a viable explanation for how the wicked Cainites could be called “the sons of God” (Wenham 1987, 140). This interpretation, therefore, appears to be without adequate support and can be dismissed.
Another view proposed by both John H. Sailhamer and Philip H. Eveson is that Genesis 6:1–4 functions as a summary to the content of chapter 5. As Sailhamer puts it, this brief episode serves as an interlude before the Flood narrative, indicating that the sons and daughters of Adam had multiplied greatly, marrying and continuing to have children (Sailhamer 1990, 76).
The passage supposedly tells about nothing out of the ordinary; rather, it indicates that the routines of life went on as usual, as alluded to by Christ in Matthew 24:38–39. The problem was not with what mankind was doing per se, but the way in which he was going about it—that is, in utter disregard of his Creator. As Eveson surmises, “Life at that time went on normally, ‘but in arrogant independence of God’” (Eveson 2001, 152).
Yet, it is invalid to assert, “Life at that time went on normally, ‘but in arrogant independence of God’” in Genesis 6 after Genesis 4:26 notes, “To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
Anderson wrote, “some angels punished by being confined and others free to roam the earth (cf. Ephesians 6:11–12)” yet, those vss. state, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Moreover, Jude and 2 Peter 2 state, “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” and “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” note that it is not some of them but all of them.
Anderson counter-argues, “Christ stated in Matthew 22:30 that at the resurrection, the redeemed ‘neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven’…But this passage is not arguing that angels (at least when they appear physically) are sexless or incapable of reproductive functions. Rather, it indicates that marriage (and, by extension, reproduction) is not something in which the holy, heavenly angels participate.”
That is a point I have made many, many times and yet, I take exception to “at least when they appear physically” since they always appear physically since they are ontologically physical.
As Anderson puts it, “it is worth considering that when angels are mentioned in other locations in Genesis (e.g., Genesis 18–19), they appear in human form, they partake in a meal, they are lusted after, and they physically seize people by their hands to drag them out of a doomed city.”
Now we come to the second of only two sentences, verses, regarding Nephilim, as Anderson notes:
It is also objected that the fallen angels view is not necessary to account for the rise of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4, and that the presence of such hybrid offspring before the Flood creates tension with Numbers 13:33, which mentions Nephilim dwelling in the land of Canaan long after the Flood (e.g., Sailhamer 1990, 79).
However, to insist that the Nephilim were not the offspring of the unions described only two verses prior is essentially to sever Genesis 6:4 from the context, leaving the purpose of its content ambiguous. With respect to the later mention of the Nephilim in Numbers 13, it need not be assumed that the Nephilim survived the Flood—which is certainly contrary to the biblical text (Genesis 7:21–23). In view of the fact that the statement in Numbers 13 is from the unfaithful spies who told Israel not to go into the Promised Land, there is reason to suspect that the remark may have been an exaggeration.
Sarna takes this view, saying, “The reference in Numbers is not to the supposedly continued existence of Nephilim into Israelite times; rather, it is used simply for oratorical effect, much as ‘Huns’ was used to designate Germans during the two world wars” (Sarna 1989, 46).
However, in view of the narrator’s explanatory note in Numbers 13:33 (“the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim”), it is perhaps better to suspect that the unsanctioned angel-human relations that were rampant before the Flood continued on a limited scale after the global catastrophe. This would explain the author’s pointed remark in Genesis 6:4 that the Nephilim were on the earth prior to the Flood—“and also afterward.”
It would also explain the grammatical arrangement found in Genesis 6:4, involving the imperfect (יָבֹאוּ) and the perfect preceded by waw (וְיָלְדוּ), which most naturally expresses an event which occurred repeatedly. (The idea, thus, is that the Nephilim arose “whenever” there were sexual unions between humans and fallen angels.) Accordingly, the sin of unsanctioned angel-human relations and the propagation of the Nephilim appears to have continued even after the Flood.
Let us review beginning with that, “Numbers 13:33, which mentions” is a generic manner with which to interact with the narrative since key questions are: who said it, why was it says, what was the reaction to it, etc.
In this case, Anderson (and Sarna) go on to specify that such an assertion, “is from the unfaithful spies” to which I will add: also disloyal, contradictory, embellishers who presented an “evil report” and were rebuked by God—they just concocted a fear-mongering, scare-tactic tall-tale.
That little detail is key because it takes us from it’s in the Bible so it must be true to that what is true is that their deception was recorded—I would go much further then “exaggeration.”
Indeed, it is not a case of, “it need not be assumed that the Nephilim survived the Flood” or somehow returned, I will add, but that it is “contrary to the biblical text (Genesis 7:21–23)” plus Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, and 2 Peter 2:5.
Anderson quotes N.M. Sarna to the effect of, “The reference in Numbers is not to the supposedly continued existence of Nephilim into Israelite times; rather, it is used simply for oratorical effect, much as ‘Huns’ was used to designate Germans during the two world wars” (Genesis: The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989)).
Yet, the unreliable assertion is of having seen Nephilim and not merely referring to non-Nephilim as Nephilim.
Problematically, Anderson still decided to go with what utterly unreliable men asserted with that, “unsanctioned angel-human relations…continued on a limited scale after the global catastrophe” which is something that one must artificially insert into the Bible and implies that God failed and the flood was much of a waste—God meant to be rid of them but missed the loophole whereby they just returned, somehow.
Moreover, one must also invent a way to have them related to Anakim: something, by the way, that does not exist in the Septuagint/LXX version of that verse.
Now, that, “the Nephilim were on the earth prior to the Flood—‘and also afterward’” is something that does not exist in Genesis 6: which is likely why Anderson was forced to only actually quote half a verse.
And it is a case of, “Nephilim arose ‘whenever’ there were sexual unions between humans and fallen angels” but the question is when that was.
Anderson began his article by quoting Genesis 6 and so I will elucidate as per his quote, “it came about, when mankind 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 for themselves wives from any they chose…Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—whenever the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, who bore to them children.”
Thus, “Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—whenever the sons of God went in to the daughters of men” so the question becomes: when were those days?
Well, v. 1 told us, “when mankind began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them” which could have been as early as when Adam and Eve’s children began having children.
Yet, in any case, the question becomes: when was afterward?
Well, afterward means afterward: they began doing it and continued doing it and yet, the flood brought it to a full and final end.
That was all pre-flood and in fact, the flood is not even mentioned for the very first time until a full 13 vss. after v. 4.
Moreover, Jude and 2 Peter 2 inform us that those Angels who sinned were incarcerated. Now, they do not specify when they were incarcerated but it makes logical and theo-logical sense that since the flood was when God was cleaning house, as it were, then that would have been when they were incarcerated which—besides that He did not fail—is another way to argue against post-flood falls of Angels who just kept right on doing it (for which there is no evidence and in the face of that there is only a one-time fall of Angels).
Anderson notes, “Sailhamer maintains that the sense of הַנְּפִלִמ הָיוּ בָאָרֶץ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם in Genesis 6:4 suggests that the Nephilim were already present in the land before the unions between ‘the sons of God’ and ‘the daughters of men.’ Likewise, he argues that וְגַם אַֽחֲרֵי־כֵן אֲשֶׁר requires that the Nephilim could not have been the offspring of the unions described” (J.H. Sailhamer, Genesis: vol. 2 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1990).
Yet, that, “Nephilim were on the earth…whenever the sons of God went in to the daughters of men” implies that they were on the Earth as a result of whenever the sons of God went in to the daughters of men.
Moreover, such a view turns Genesis 6:1-4 into a rather odd narrative in that it, essentially, as the author focusing on the sons of God and daughters of men, their initial attraction, their marriages, their offspring but then artificially inserting Nephilim about whom the author merely notes they were around at the time and saying nothing more. Thus, that would essentially interrupt the narrative for no apparent reason.
Let us now dig into some of Anderson’s footnotes.
He quotes Julius Africanus as regarding what I characterized as the mythology I noted about the entire bloodlines of Seth and Cain, “What is meant by the Spirit . . . is that the descendants of Seth are called the sons of God on account of the righteous men…the descendants of Cain are named the seed of men, as having nothing divine in them, on account of the wickedness of their race.”
Anderson observes that T.R. Schreiner:
…observes that the Greek word πνεῦμα (“spirit”) when used in the plural almost invariably refers to angels and not to humans. The one exception appears in Hebrews 12:23, but in that instance the context functions to clarify who is in view.
He also points out that the Greek φυλακή (“prison”), while commonly used to indicate a place where humans are imprisoned on earth (e.g., Acts 5:19; 8:3; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:23), “is never used to denote a place of punishment for humans after death” (p. 187). Other, less acceptable views on the identity of the “spirits” in 1 Peter 3:18–20 are that they were (1) the departed souls of humans, contemporaries of Noah who perished in the Flood and to whom Christ, during the time between his death and resurrection, preached the message of salvation, or (2) the men of Noah’s day to whom the preincarnate Christ, through Noah, preached salvation [T.R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude: The New American Commentary 37 (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003].
It is myopic to write in terms of, “the Greek word πνεῦμα (‘spirit’)” since it also refers to wind/breath. Thus, when it, “invariably refers to angels” it is not implying that they are spirits.
As for, “φυλακή (‘prison’)” since the reference was to Jude and 2 Peter 2 then, indeed, it has nothing to do with, “a place of punishment for humans after death” but to what Peter has as Tartarus: the temporary, of whatever duration, place of incarceration.
The view that whom is referenced is, “the departed souls of humans” is odd because it denotes two placed where the dead went pre-Jesus’ sacrifice: a place for those who died pre-flood and a place for those who died post-flood but pre-Jesus and there is no indication of any such a thing: all dead pre-Jesus went to sheol—one of the two compartments in sheol but sheol nevertheless (see my book What Does the Bible Say About Heaven and Hell?: A Styled Superumology and Infernology.
Overall, Anderson did a good job of reviewing the various views but fell for some basic level, and yet key, fallacies regarding Angelology and Nephilology along the way.
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