Pages 5-10, 16: winter 1992
SONS OF GOD: JUST THE GODLY LINEAGE OF SETH?
In a front-page question-and-answer column in the June 1991 issue of
Christian Courier, editor Wayne Jackson presented a bibliolater's view of
Genesis 6:1-4, which was also the subject of an article exchange in the
autumn edition of TSR. Jackson, of course, pooh-poohed the mere suggestion
that this passage in any way implies the consorting of angels with earthly
women. Here is his entire eisegesis of the passage with his original spelling,
punctuation, and grammar retained:
The context of Genesis 6:1f speaks of the "sons of God" who
took wives of the "daughters of men." Subsequently, the record
reveals that in those days "the Nephilim were in the earth."
From these phrases, it has been assumed by some Bible students
that certain fallen angels ("sons of God") mated with women of
the earth ("daughters of men"), and that to these unions was
born a sort of hybrid race called the Nephilim.
For this theory there is no evidence, and it runs counter to
numerous biblical facts. Note: (1) Angels are spirit beings (Heb.
1:14). As such, they do not consist of flesh (Luke 24:39),
hence, they are incapable of a physical relationship. (2) Christ
Himself plainly said that angels do not marry (Mt. 22:30; Mk.
12:25; Lk. 20:34-35). (3) There is, in fact, nothing in Genesis
6:4 that indicates the Nephilim were offspring of the marriages
suggested in this context. (4) The word "Nephilim" usually
identified as "giants" (ASVfn), is a term of uncertain meaning.
Likely it suggests the idea of strength and prowess. It is used
in Numbers 13:33 of certain inhabitants of Canaan whom the Is-
raelite spies encountered in the survey of the land. The context
indicates that they were merely "men of great stature" (32), and
nothing hints there [sic] they were the progeny of angels.
The most reasonable view of Genesis 6:1f is that the allusion
refers to the fact that some men, from the godly lineage of Seth,
called "sons of God" (an expression denoting those in covenant
relationship with Jehovah--cf. Deut 14:1; 32:5), began to pursue
fleshly interests, and so took wives of "the daughters of men,"
i.e., those who were unbelievers. (Is there any principle that
we can learn from this?) The subsequent context seems to
suggest that it was this carnal trend that ultimately brought the
Flood--which prompts this question. If the "sons of God" were
angels, how did the Flood serve as a judgment upon them? Can
Although Mr. Jackson asserts that there is no evidence for the "theory"
that Genesis 6:1-4 referred to the intermarriage of angels and human women,
a review of my exchange of articles with Steve Gunter on this same subject
(TSR, Autumn 1991, pp. 2-11) will show that there is not just "evidence" but
overwhelming evidence that people living in the biblical era seriously believed
that such marriages had actually occurred in antediluvian times.
Chapters 1-20 in the book of First Enoch are devoted entirely to the
premise that angels or watchers had descended from heaven, married human
women, and thereby produced a state of almost total corruption upon the
earth. The language in this section of the book is too specific and the de-
scriptions too detailed to leave any doubt that the author believed that such
marriages had indeed happened. My first article on the subject pointed out
that the "inspired" writer Jude (vv:14-15) had quoted 1 Enoch 1:9 in a way
that both endorsed the Enochian authorship of the book and attributed pro-
phetic powers to its author. As I said then, these facts, along with the
biblical assertion that Enoch was so righteous that God translated him directly
to heaven (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5), leave bibliolaters no recourse but to
regard as truth whatever "Enoch" said about angels and women marrying. To
say the least, such facts as these can hardly be regarded as "no evidence"
for the "theory" that some in biblical times believed angels had once intermar-
ried with earthly women.
But evidence to support the "theory" doesn't end with 1 Enoch. Legends
of such marriages having occurred in antediluvian times abound in apocryphal
literature. Before his death in Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Reuben
warned his sons not to be captivated by women who adorn themselves "to
deceive men's sound minds":
For it was thus that they (women) charmed the Watchers, who
were before the Flood. As they continued looking at the women,
they were filled with desire for them and perpetrated the act in
their minds. Then they were transformed into human males, and
while the women were cohabiting with their husbands they ap-
peared to them. Since the women's minds were filled with lust
for these apparitions, they gave birth to giants. For the Watch-
ers were disclosed to them as being as high as the heavens
In apocryphal literature--and sometimes even in the Bible--watchers was a
term frequently used for angels. In relating a dream to Daniel, king Nebu-
chadnezzar said that he saw a "watcher and a holy one" come down from
heaven (Dan. 4:13). The same designation (watcher) for angels was used
two other times in the same context (vv: 17,23). So when "Reuben" spoke in
the above passage about "watchers before the flood" who had been "trans-
formed into human males" and who then consorted with women who "gave
birth to giants," what could he have been speaking of but the same legend
that figured so prominently in 1 Enoch?
This legend was mentioned also in the book of Jubilees in relating events
in the life of Enoch:
And he was therefore with the angels of God six jubilees of
years. And they showed him everything which is on earth and in
the heavens, the dominion of the sun. And he wrote everything,
and bore witness to the Watchers, the ones who sinned with the
daughters of men because they began to mingle themselves with
the daughters of men so that they might be polluted. And Enoch
bore witness against all of them (7:21).
As the story continues, Noah, after the birth of his grandchildren, bore
witness and admonished them to "preserve themselves from fornication and
pollution and from all injustice":
For on account of these three (things) the Flood came upon
the earth. For (it was) because of the fornication which the
Watchers, apart from the mandate of their authority, fornicated
with the daughters of men and took for themselves wives from all
whom they chose and made a beginning of impurity. And they
begot sons, the Naphidim, and all of them were dissimilar. And
each one ate his fellow. The giants killed the Naphil, and the
Naphil killed the Elyo, and the Elyo mankind, and man his neigh-
References to the teachings of the Watchers by which they corrupted the
earth (8:3) and their punishment by confinement within the earth until the
day of judgment (10:5) agree essentially with the legend as it was presented
in 1 Enoch. Other allusions to the legend were made in The Testament of
Naphtali (3:5) and Qumran MS4. These contemporaries of the OT authors
consistently spoke of angels or watchers or children of heaven, who married
human women, produced giants, and corrupted the earth to a degree that
caused God to send the great flood. With this many references in the litera-
ture of Old Testament times to a belief that giants had been born in antedi-
luvian days to women who had married angels, Mr. Jackson would have to be
brazenly uncritical to argue that Genesis 6:1-4 was not referring to the same
myth, and especially so since "Enoch the seventh from Adam" (Jude 14) had
written so specifically and clearly about the myth.
In the July 1991 issue of Reason and Revelation, an "apologetic" paper
that he also edits, Mr. Jackson began a series on "Josephus and the Bible."
The first article almost rhapsodized the "valuable contribution" that the testi-
mony of the Jewish historian Josephus makes in confirming the accuracy of
"Sacred Scripture." At one point in the article, where the "testimony" of
Josephus didn't quite confirm the accuracy of the Biblical account of the same
story, Jackson observed that "the narrative of the Jewish historian is marred
by some discrepancies" (p. 27). In other words, when Josephus's narrative
agrees with the Bible (obviously the primary source that Josephus relied on
to write The Antiquities of the Jews), Jackson sees this as wonderful confir-
mation of "Sacred Scripture," but when Josephus disagrees with the Bible,
Jackson dismisses these occasions as "discrepancies" that mar the narrative of
the Jewish historian. It is a familiar game that bibliolaters play. Whatever
extrabiblical materials help their case, they readily accept, but whatever
hurts their case, they reject. They feel no need to critically appraise such
materials. The fact that they contradict the Bible is the only reason they
need to reject them.
No doubt, then, Jackson will say that the testimony of Josephus on the
subject now under consideration was "marred" by discrepancies, because
Josephus, like the writer of 1 Enoch, obviously thought that angels had once
married earthly women and produced a race of giants. After stating that men
began to show "a double degree of wickedness, whereby they made God to be
their enemy," he said this:
(F)or many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat
sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on
account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the
tradition is, That these men did what resembled the acts of those
whom the Grecians call giants" (Antiquities of the Jews, 1.3.1).
The very next statement of Josephus introduced Noah and God's plan to save
humanity through the ark that he commanded Noah to build--in other words,
exactly the same premise and chronological order that was presented in both
Genesis and 1 Enoch. For once, then, I am going to have to agree with Mr.
Jackson. Sometimes the testimony of Josephus does make a "valuable contribu-
tion" to confirming the accuracy of the Bible. Genesis 6:1-4 "accurately"
presented the antediluvian myth about angels and earthly women, and the
testimony of Josephus makes a "valuable contribution" to confirming that this
was exactly what the Genesis writer meant.
In addition to the references already noted, the obvious existence of this
antediluvian myth was also confirmed in the rabbinical midrashim or
postcanonical commentaries written to interpret the Tanach or OT scrip-
tures. In Hebrew Myths, Robert Graves and Raphael Patai have written an
excellent critical analysis of midrashic expansions of this antediluvian myth
about the intermarriage of fallen angels and earthly women (pp. 100-107).
Anyone who doubts that early Jewish tradition and scholarship held that
Genesis 6:1-4 was a reference to this myth should get the book and read it.
It also has some very enlightening information on other mythological refer-
ences in the book of Genesis.
According to Mr. Jackson, the theory that angels once intermarried with
human women "runs counter to numerous biblical facts." He then proceeded to
play the game of pitting scripture against scripture to try to show that
passages embarrassing to the inerrancy doctrine cannot mean what the most
obvious and least incredible interpretations assign to them. When, for ex-
ample, a bibliolater is confronted with a passage clearly showing that God can
and sometimes does lie (1 Kings 22:17-23), he will argue that the passage
cannot mean what it "seems" to mean, because Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2
clearly state that it is impossible for God to lie. It never occurs to our
bibliolater that Bible writers simply had conflicting religious views, just as
thetheologians of all generations have had conflicting religious views. They
are so hung up on their fantasy-land belief that the Bible is perfectly harmo-
nious from cover to cover that they cannot even consider the possibility that
whoever wrote 1 Kings 22 simply disagreed with the writers of Hebrews and
Titus on this particular point.
Jackson used this same scripture-against-scripture tactic to begin his
denial that Genesis 6:1-4 was about intermar-riages of angels and human
women. It cannot mean that, he argued, because "it runs counter to numer-
ous biblical facts." Well, what are these "biblical facts" that it runs counter
to? "Angels are spirit beings (Heb. 1:4)," Jackson told his gullible fun-
damentalist audience. "As such, they do not consist of flesh (Luke 24:39);
hence, they are incapable of a physical relationship." But how did he arrive
at such an unbiblical conclusion as this? He will surely agree that the Holy
Spirit is a "spirit being," and the Bible very clearly depicted him as a crea-
ture capable not just of "a physical relationship" but of sexual intercourse.
In announcing to Mary the impending birth of Jesus, Gabriel said, "The Holy
Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow
you; for that reason the holy child to be born will be called Son of God"
(Lk. 1:35, REB).
If Mr. Jackson wants to quibble that the Holy Spirit is not an angel, he
should consider the implications of that quaint little biblical yarn about Lot's
encounter with angels. After seeing two angels come into Sodom, Lot invited
them into his home. They accepted, and he made them a feast that they ate
(Gen. 19:1-3). This all sounds very "physical" to me. If angels have mouths
and digestive tracts to use in eating and if they have feet that can be
washed (v:2), why would they not have genitals for use in sexual inter-
course? As a matter of fact, when a group of homosexuals in Sodom heard
that these "men" were lodging with Lot, they surrounded his house and
demanded that he send the "men" out to them so that "we may know them"
(v:5). Now I assume that Mr. Jackson understands what that means, so at
least these men of Sodom thought that angels were capable of "physical rela-
tionship." Just where, then, does Mr. Jackson get his "biblical fact" that
angels were "incapable of a physical relationship"?
Some bibliolaters, in trying to circumvent the obvious anthropomorphic
description of angels in this passage, contend that these angels were trans-
formed into men to complete their mission to warn Lot of the impending de-
struction of Sodom. But if angels could be transformed for this purpose,
why could they not have transformed themselves so that they could marry the
human women they had lusted after. This is, in fact, what the passage
quoted above from Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs clearly said: "Then
they (the watchers) were transformed into human males." That provides a
perfectly sensible (in terms of biblical sensibility) explanation for how the
physical aspects of sexual intercourse between angels and women could have
"Christ Himself plainly said that angels do not marry (Mt. 22:30; Mk.
12:25; Lk. 20:34-35)," Jackson went on to say. In this statement, there is an
assumption of harmony in the Bible. Mr. Jackson is completely unwilling to
concede that even if Jesus did believe that angels do not marry, this would
not mean that the Genesis writer also believed that they do not marry. It
could simply be that Jesus and the Genesis writer disagreed on this point,
and before Jackson himself would have a valid point, he would have to prove
that the two did not disagree.
On closer examination of the passages that Jackson cited in support of
this point, we can see that Jesus did not say that angels do not marry.
What he actually said was that angels in heaven do not marry, but the legend
as related in 1 Enoch and other apocryphal works clearly states that in times
past angels did marry. None of them said, however, that angels marry in
heaven. They all depicted them as angels who left heaven to marry earthly
And they were altogether two hundred; and they descended
into Ardos, which is the summit of Hermon. And they called the
mount Armon, for they swore and bound one another by a
curse.... And they took wives unto themselves, and everyone
(respectively) chose one woman for himself, and they began to go
unto them.... And the women became pregnant and gave birth to
great giants whose heights were three hundred cubits (1 Enoch
So no one, including even the Genesis writer, ever even implied that these
marriages between angels and women occurred in heaven. The angels left
heaven and came to earth. As Jude said in obvious allusion to the angels in
this legend, "And angels who did not keep their own position, but left their
proper dwelling, he (God) has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for
the judgment of the great Day" (v:6).
In the most ridiculous of all his points, Jackson said, "There is, in fact,
nothing in Genesis 6:4 that indicates the Nephilim were offspring of the
marriages suggested in this context." Oh? That's about like saying that
there is nothing in Mark 16:16 or Acts 2:38 to indicate that baptism has
anything to do with salvation, and we can imagine how quickly Mr. Jackson's
Church- of-Christ mind would reject the mere suggestion of that. "The Nephi-
lim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward," the passage says,
"when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore chil-
dren to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown"
(NRSV). A comparison of translations will show an overwhelming indication
that "the Nephilim were offspring of the marriages suggested in this context":
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also after-
ward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and
had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of
In those days as well as later, when the sons of the gods had intercourse with the daugh-
ters of mortals and children were born to them, the Nephilim were on the earth; they were the
heroes of old, people of renown (Revised English Bible).
At that time the Nephilim appeared on earth (as well as later), after the sons of heaven
had intercourse with the daughters of man, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old,
the men of renown (New American Bible).
The Nephilim were on the earth at that time (and even after-
ward) when the sons of God resorted to the daughters of man,
and had children by them. These are the heroes of days gone
by, the famous men (Jerusalem Bible).
There were giants on the earth in those days, and later, too,
when the sons of God used to cohabit with the daughters of men,
who bore them children, those mighty men of old who made a
name (Revised Berkeley Version).
There were giants on the earth in those days--and also after-
ward--when the sons of God lived with the daughters of men, and
they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who
were of old, men of renown (Amplified Bible).
There were giants on the earth in those days; and also after
that, for the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and
they bore children to them, and they became giants who in the
olden days were mighty men of renown (Lamsa's Translation of
the Peshitta Text).
In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth
who were descendants of human women and the supernatural
beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago
(Good News Bible).
Of all translations of this verse, however, none is any clearer than the Holy Spirit's favorite version, the Septuagint, in saying that giants had resulted from the sexual union of angels and human women:
Now the giants were upon the earth in those days; and after
that when the sons of God were wont to go in to the daughters of
men, they bore children to them, those were the giants of old,
the men of renown (Brenton Translation).
If Mr. Jackson can read all these translations of Genesis 6:4 and still say
with a straight face that there is nothing in the verse "that indicates the
Nephilim were offspring of the marriages suggested in this context," then he
needs some serious help with basic hermeneutics.
His fourth point was that "(t)he word 'Nephilim,' usually identified as
'giants' (ASVfn), is a term of uncertain meaning." As noted in "Bible Biolo-
gy" (TSR, Spring 1991, p. 10), he tried this same dodge in trying to show
that no scientific error occurred in classifying hares and conies as cud-
chewers (Lev. 11:5-6). The words translated hare and cony were "rare and
difficult" in Hebrew, he contended, so we can't even be sure that hares and
conies were the animals "Moses" had in mind. Whenever a serious threat to
the inerrancy doctrine is seen in situations like these, fundamentalists will
often plead "uncertainty of meaning" in the language used. Apparently, they
never stop to consider the damage that such a defense does to the very
doctrine they are trying to prove. An omniscient God oversaw the writing of
the Bible down to the selection of individual words, yet the language was so
vague and uncertain in places that we can't really be sure what was meant.
This is the best that omniscience could do?
At any rate, Jackson claims that the meaning of nephilim was "uncertain"
and this despite numerous OT passages that very plainly associated the word
with giantism. The spies sent into Canaan saw the Nephilim in the land and
described them as "men of great stature" (Num. 13:32). The spies said that
in the presence of these people they had felt like grasshoppers "in our own
sight" (v:33). These Nephilim were said to be "the sons of Anak," and in
other places were called Anakim. Like Nephilim, the Anakim were always
associated with great stature. A people "great, and many, and tall," who
had once dwelt in Moab, were compared to the Anakim (Dt. 2:10). There are
enough references like these in the Old Testament to clearly establish that
nephilim was a word used to mean giants, and except for the absurdity that
the word exposes in the Bible inerrancy doctrine, Mr. Jackson would not
argue the point. As for his claim that "nothing hints that they (the Nephi-
lim) were the progeny of angels," I will just leave it to the readers to review
the various translations of Genesis 6:4 quoted above and let them decide if
there is anything to "hint" that the Nephilim were considered the progeny of
Jackson arbitrarily said that "(t)he most reasonable view of Genesis 6:1f
is that the allusion refers to the fact that some men, from the godly lineage
of Seth, called 'sons of God'... began to pursue fleshly interests, and so
took wives of 'the daughters of men.'" But what did he offer as proof of
this "most reasonable view"? Nothing whatsoever! In "Much Ado About
Nothing" (Autumn 1991, p. 7) Jackson's inerrancy cohort, Steve Gunter, said
that the sons of God in Genesis 6:1 were "the descendants of righteous Abel"
(despite the fact that the Bible doesn't even mention any children that Abel
had). So which were they, these "sons of God," descendants of Abel or
descendants of Seth? One inerrancy defender says one thing, another some-
Did either man cite any places in the biblical text where descendants of
Abel or Seth were called "sons of God"? No, they didn't, and they didn't
because they can't. There simply are none. Like Gunter's purely arbitrary
pronouncement that these "sons of God" were "descendants of rightous Abel,"
Jackson's "most reasonable view" is purely speculative, a recourse that he
must resort to in order to defend the absurd notion that the Bible was ver-
bally inspired--every word of it-- by the omniscient Yahweh of the Hebrews.
He thought that he had found in Deuteronomy 14:1 and 32:5 an indication
that "sons of God" was "an expression denoting those in covenant relationship
with Jehovah," but neither of these passages used the exact term (beni ha-
elohim) that was twice translated "sons of God" in Genesis 6.The expression
and its usage in the Old Testament were analyzed in "If It Walks Like a
Duck..." (TSR, Autumn 1991, pp. 3-4), so I will not repeat myself on this
point. A review of this section of the article, however, will clearly show that
the expression was always applied to celestial beings, who in at least one case
(Job 38:4-7) existed before man was even created.
Jackson can say that the expression denoted "those in covenant relation-
ship with Jehovah" all that he wishes, but he has no proof of that. The
term covenant (Heb. beryth) doesn't even appear in the Bible text until
after the "sons of God" had taken wives from the daughters of men, so why
would the descendants of Seth have been in "covenant relationship with
Jehovah" any more than descendants of the other sons and daughters who
were born to Adam and Eve after the birth of Seth (Gen. 5:3)? [As far as
actual textual records are concerned, Cain was the only child of Adam and
Eve who went bad.] The "sons of God" who came to present themselves to
Yahweh (Job 1:6; 2:1), were these descendants of Seth too who were in
"covenant relationship with Jehovah"? If so, where is that covenant relation-
ship even hinted at in the book of Job? For that matter, where is their
descent from Seth even suggested? If Jackson is going to make an assertion
like this, he should be prepared to support it with more than two verses that
didn't even contain the same Hebrew expression.
Jackson said that "(t)he subsequent context (of Genesis 6) seems to
suggest that it (marriages between the sons of God and the daughters of
men) was this carnal trend that ultimately brought the Flood." I have no
problems with this interpretation. It is in complete agreement with 1 Enoch
and the other apocryphal works that elaborated on this myth about the sons
of God or heaven marrying the daughters of men. They all agreed that the
flood resulted from the corruption that the marriages had brought upon the
earth. I have all kinds of problems, however, with a conclusion that he drew
from this interpretation. It "prompts this interesting question," he said. "If
the 'sons of God' were angels, how did the Flood serve as a judgment upon
them? Can angels drown?"
These questions simplistically overlook the fact that we are dealing with a
definite possibility of myth, and in mythology anything could happen, even
the drowning of angels. Aside from this, Jackson's questions ignore several
important aspects of the myth. First of all, as noted above in T12P 5:6,
these angels "were transformed into human males" and as such would have
been subject to death by drowning as well as any other human males. Jack-
son may as well have questioned the death of Jesus on the cross on the
grounds that he was God (Jn. 1:1) and that God could not have been killed.
The idea, however, was that Jesus was made human to suffer in all points as
humans do (Heb. 4:15) even to the point of becoming subject unto death
(Phil. 2:5-8). So if God incarnated as a man could die by crucifixion, why
couldn't angels incarnated as men die by drowning? Sometimes Mr. Jackson
doesn't seem to be thinking too clearly, but adherence to a belief as fun-
damentally absurd as Bible inerrancy will do that to a person.
Furthermore, the flood was sent not as judgment upon the fallen angels
but upon the "children of adultery" and "children of the Watchers" (1 Enoch
10:9) who had been born to the wives of the angels. The fornicating angels,
after having witnessed "the destruction of their beloved ones" (v:12), were
to be bound "for seventy generations underneath the rocks of the ground
until the day of their judgment" (v:13). So there was nothing in the myth to
imply that the flood was sent to destroy the fallen angels. It was sent to
destroy the corruption they had caused, but they themselves were bound in
the earth for judgment of a later date. To this, Jackson must agree or find
himself arguing with the "inspired" writers Jude and Peter:
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left
their proper dwelling, he (God) has kept in eternal chains in
deepest darkness for the judgment of the great Day (Jude 6).
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but
cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest
darkness to be kept until the judgment... then the Lord knows
how to rescue the ungodly from trial, and to keep the unright-
eous under punishment until the day of judgment--especially those
who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise author-
ity (2 Peter 2:4-10).
As it turns out, then, there are no "biblical facts" to prove that Genesis 6:1-
4 was not referring to the intermarriage of angels and human women.
I realize how embarrassing these things must be to Mr. Jackson. Perhaps
that is why he consistently refuses our offer of space in the pages of TSR
(as he has done this time too) to defend the ridiculous posi
tions he takes in support of Bible inerrancy. However, if he expects rational
people to believe that Genesis 6:1-4 had nothing to do with a mythological
belief that angels had once intermarried with earthly women, he will have to
present better evidence than what he has thus far shown us.
In July 1991, six months before its publication, a preliminary draft of this
article was sent to Mr. (See SETH, p. 16) Jackson with an offer to simultane-
ously publish his response to it. He did not accept. (He, in fact, returned
without comment the $3 that I included to renew my subscription to his
paper.) Anyone wishing to contact him about this or any of the other matters
on which we have quoted him in TSR may do so at P. O. Box 55265, Stock-
ton, CA 95205.
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