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.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.
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 Israelite 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 angels drown?
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 descriptions 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 prophetic 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 intermarried 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 appeared to them. Since the women's minds were filled with lust for these apparitions, they gave birth to giants. For the Watchers were disclosed to them as being as high as the heavens (5:6).In apocryphal literature--and sometimes even in the Bible--watchers was a term frequently used for angels. In relating a dream to Daniel, king Nebuchadnezzar 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 "transformed 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 neighbor (7:21-22).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 literature of Old Testament times to a belief that giants had been born in antediluvian 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 testimony 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 confirmation 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 scriptures. 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 references 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 example, 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 harmonious 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 numerous biblical facts." Well, what are these "biblical facts" that it runs counter to? "Angels are spirit beings (Heb. 1:4)," Jackson told his gullible fundamentalist 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 creature 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 intercourse? 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 relationship." 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 transformed into men to complete their mission to warn Lot of the impending destruction 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 occurred.
"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 women:
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 6:6; 7:1-2).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 Nephilim 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 children 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 afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown (NIV).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:
In those days as well as later, when the sons of the gods had intercourse with the daughters 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 afterward) 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 afterward--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).
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 Biology" (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 cudchewers (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 Nephilim) 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 angels.
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 something else.
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 verbally 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 relationship with Jehovah" all that he wishes, but he has no proof of that. The term covenant (Heb. berŒyt) 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 relationship 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. Jackson 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 fundamentally 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).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.
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 unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment--especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority (2 Peter 2:4-10).
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 positions 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
draft of this article was sent to Mr. Jackson with an offer to
simultaneously 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
P. O. Box 55265, Stockton, CA 95205.