In the past, I like many others have blindly accepted the teaching that in ancient history, fallen angels became intimate with women and produced some strange hybrid offspring known as the Nephilim. This teaching has become ever more popular in modern times, especially as some self proclaimed “end times experts” allow their imagination to run wild. Even in the last few days, I have received mailshots from otherwise sound Christians, suggesting alien sightings today, and other such bizarre stuff, is directly connected to this hybrid race of angel/human beings making a return.
I realise this sort of thing can seem exciting at times, and yes I’ve been guilty of propagating this stuff myself in blind ignorance in the past, but is there really any Biblical evidence for such things? This question was hammered home to me only a couple of days ago, when my own wife and daughter were having a conversation on the subject of angels, and this stuff came out in a “matter of fact” manner that startled me. Obviously my own silence on the subject, along with seemingly reputable Christians promoting these views openly, has led to my own family accepting something as the truth, that Scripture itself reveals to be false.
The passage of Scripture this teaching is based upon is:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Genesis 6:1-2
If someone already has it in their mind that the teaching mentioned previously is fact, which is no surprise considering the frequency it is taught as fact, then approaching the above text may well solidify that understanding even further. It’s not unreasonable to consider the sons of God as angels, and the daughters of man simply normal women. Especially when you also read verse 4 too:
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. Genesis 6:4
The problem with this approach is that, rather than coming to God’s Word empty handed that we may be instructed in His truth, instead we come to Scripture already believing we know the truth, and so use God’s Word to consolidate what we already knew. This is known as “eisogesis“, which means to read our own presuppositions into the Scriptures, and is probably the most common factor of almost all false teaching. To ensure we do not fall into this trap, our first intention when interpreting Scripture, should be to try and read the passage in the context it has been written. As the Scripture begins to shape our thoughts in such a manner, then we can begin to develop our understanding further by seeking other passages of Scripture dealing with the same subject matter. This is what is known as “allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture“, and is essential in serious Bible study. With that in mind, allow me to highlight the context of the above text.
If we go back to Genesis chapter 4, we read of the birth of Cain and Abel. God had already declared that the offspring of Eve would rise up and crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15), and so it was with this expectation that Adam and Eve would have looked upon their two sons. As the story progresses though, Cain murders Abel, and in so doing ends up being cursed by God. At that time Cain was the only son of Adam and Eve, and was obviously not the offspring that God had previously referred to.
As Cain went away from the presence of the Lord (Gen 4:16), he and his wife began to bear children who could be described as extremely dynamic. They were strong in the flesh, very self sufficient, and with the same murderous traits as Cain. In fact, it is commonly believed amongst the Jews, that Gen 4:23 refers to a descendant of Cain by the name of Lamech, killing both Cain and Tubal-Cain whilst hunting, and thus bringing upon himself and his descendants further wrath of God (Gen 4:15). This lineage of Cain were ungodly as their father was, and grew worse still as time progressed.
In contrast to the descendants of Cain, we are told in Gen 4:25-26 that God caused Eve to bear another son to replace Abel who had been murdered by Cain. This son was named Seth, and it was at the time that Seth also fathered a son by the name of Enosh, that these descendants of Seth began to call upon the name of the Lord. As we progress on through chapter 5, we are shown the genealogy from Seth through to Noah. It can be seen from the text of Luke 3:23-38, that it is through this direct lineage from Seth that Jesus Christ is born, who is the Offspring spoken of in Gen 3:15. As we approach the text in Genesis chapter 6 then, we have the context laid out clearly for us by the preceding chapters. Namely we see two lines of offspring from Adam and Eve. On the one side we see the lineage of Cain, who are confident in the flesh but apart from God. Whilst on the other, we see the lineage of Seth whose chief characteristic is their faith in God being manifest as they called upon His name. There is no mention of angelic beings whatsoever.
With this context in mind, and also bearing in mind the Lord reveals His intention in Gen 6:5-8 to destroy mankind because of his wickedness, it can be seen that verses 1 – 4 are simply providing a clear contrast between men of faith, and those who are not. And the dreadful consequences that arose because of the offspring of those who were the Lord’s, becoming intimate with the women of those who were ungodly. This is the very reason why the Lord imposed such strong regulations against His people intermarrying with those outside of Israel in the Law of Moses.
Apart from the overall context of this text making it virtually impossible to conclude that “sons of God” are referring to angelic beings in Gen 6:2, there remains even stronger evidence against this doctrine, and that is the very words of Jesus Christ Himself. When the Sadducees were attempting to trick Jesus by forming a complicated imaginary scenario based on a woman being married more than once in this life, Jesus answered them:
“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Matt 22:29-30
There are no mention in the Bible of male and female angels, nor is there even the faintest reference of them reproducing. Neither does there seem to appear anywhere the offspring of two different “kinds” of created being (isn’t this even one of the strongest arguments against the theory of evolution?). The only time I am aware of that this is not the case, would be the immaculate conception of the virgin Mary.
My final point is with reference to the term “sons of God” in Gen 6:2. Whilst I’m not going to suggest that this term could not reference angelic beings in the correct context, I would very much like to point out that this term, in this context, more clearly describes those men who were from the line of Seth, who the Holy Spirit made to call upon the name of the Lord Gen 4:26 . And the “daughters of man” referred to those women born from the line of Cain. I will close with three passages of Scripture that I believe bears up this claim:
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?– Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Heb 1:5, 14
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:14-15
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
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