Vol. 4, No. 12
Since You Asked
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I have been studying the book of Genesis and I was wondering about Genesis 6:1-6. I read somewhere that the "sons of God" were to be interpreted as being angels. I remembered that in Luke 3:38, Adam was also referred to as a "son of God", so I am questioning the angel interpretation. What do you think? ~ Christy Shomber
The King James Version of the Bible, and other translations that faithfully represent the original language, use the phrases "sons of God" and "daughters of men" in the opening verses of Genesis 6.
"1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 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. 5 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. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart" (Genesis 6:1-6, KJV).
The Living Bible, a paraphrase rather than a Bible translation, however, depicts a radical departure from the Bible translations as well as from the original language in these verses. Representation of the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 as angels, etc. may be attributable to The Living Bible or someone who has been influenced by this paraphrase. Notice the Living Bible rendering below:
"1 Now a population explosion took place upon the earth. It was at this time that beings from the spirit world looked upon the beautiful earth women and took any they desired to be their wives. 3 Then Jehovah said, 'My Spirit must not forever be disgraced in man, wholly evil as he is. I will give him 120 years to mend his ways.' 4 In those days, and even afterwards, when the evil beings from the spirit world were sexually involved with human women, their children became giants, of whom so many legends are told" (Genesis 6:1-4, TLB).
There is no justification for replacing "sons of God" with "beings for the spirit world" or angels. The Living Bible has placed human commentary in the place of the inspired Word of God. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, though, does concur with the Living Bible rendering of Genesis 6.
Yet, the original language words for "son" and "sons" in both testaments mean what our English word "son" means, and they are used in the same ways in which we use the word. The context is the determining factor as to how the words "son" or "sons" are used.
There are some of passages where the phrase "sons of God" refers to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), determined by the context in which the phrase appears. However, usually the phrase "sons of God" refers to righteous mortals (John 1:12; Romans 8:14, 19; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:1-2). Again, the context is the deciding factor to understanding to whom the words "sons of God" apply.
Of the 48 times the phrase "son of God" appears in the Bible, all but Luke 3:38 is capitalized ("Son of God"), referring to Jesus Christ. Luke 3:38 uses the phrase "son of God" in the same way as the phrase "sons of God" is employed to refer to humans, except in the Book of Job.
There is no reason for construing from Genesis 6:1-6 that the phrase "sons of God" is used in any sense but the normal or literal meaning of the words that appear there (i.e., righteous mortals is meant). The phrase "sons of God" contrasted with the "daughters of men" simply represents the unending and typical result of righteous and unrighteous persons intermarrying, whereby the influence of the unrighteous overpowers the influence of the righteous (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). A similar scenario to Genesis 6 appears relative to the Israelites entering Canaan.
"Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly" (Deuteronomy 7:3-4).
The Presbyterian, Albert Barnes, in his Barnes Notes, also notes the distinction between righteous persons in Genesis 6 versus spirit beings or angels in the Book of Job. The Methodist, Adam Clarke, in his Clarke's Commentaries, likewise affirms that the "sons of God" means righteous men and "...not angels, as some have dreamed..." The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary discusses the pros and cons of Genesis 6:1-6, "sons of God," referring to mortals and angels, concluding that the phrase can only denote humans. The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament observes that the apocryphal or uninspired Book of Enoch speaks of angel marriages, but after examining all the possible interpretations of "sons of God" in Genesis 6 concludes that the phrase refers to mortals. Matthew Henry's Commentary also matter-of-factly interprets Genesis 6 respecting "the sons of God" to mean righteous humans, whereas James Burton Coffman in his commentary repudiates the angels interpretation and lists several reasons why "sons of God" must refer to humans.
In addition to all the above, Jesus himself indicated that angels are sexless and do not participate in marital relations (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25). Marshalling commentators on either side of an interpretation of itself does not determine truth. However, the preponderance of the evidence and consideration of the scholarship relative to the passage demands only one understanding. Genesis 6:1-6 refers to mortals and the departure of mankind from God before the Noahic flood.
I came upon your website as I surfed the internet for reliable information on the subject item [James, brother of the Lord]. I wanted to compare the truth, which you have so accurately articulated, with the current archeological discovery. What do you think about the discovery? In the meanwhile be encouraged to use the internet to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. May the Lord bless this work abundantly. ~ Lawrence Wells
Archaeological discoveries frequently substantiate or otherwise reflect entries in biblical history. Biblical archaeology has become one of the chief external evidences to the veracity of the Bible.
Not long ago (1990), the ossuary or bone box of Caiaphas was discovered. It is ironic that the earthly remains of the high priest who condemned our Lord to death have been found, but Jesus Christ resurrected from the grave and ascended to heaven. Christians are confident respecting this cardinal principle underlying Christianity. Besides, the first century enemies of Jesus Christ would have produced his dead body if they could have to stop Christianity.
Admittedly, there are plenty of discoveries that are either fraudulent or inconclusive respecting their relationship to biblical characters or circumstances. However, there are numerous finds that complement and confirm the biblical record.
The recent announcement of the discovery of an ossuary that may belong to the fleshly half-brother of Jesus peaks one's interest. Such a find causes one to ponder whether it is a hoax, a reference to another with the same name or the actual bone box of our Lord's brother, James. These questions were the object of several articles in Biblical Archaeology Review (November/December 2002).
The inscription on this ossuary reads: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." While the names James, Joseph and Jesus were common names, the wording is unique because it mentions an apparently famous brother to the deceased in addition to his father. The bone box itself and soil affixed to the ossuary have been scientifically dated to the time when James, the brother of Jesus Christ lived and died. The shapes of the letters used in the inscription conform precisely to the script used during the lifetime of Jesus' brother, James.
Upon examination of the available evidence (more thoroughly detailed in the articles cited), it is reasonable to conclude that the ossuary of "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" does refer to the biblical characters by the same names. However, this does not materially change one's perspective of the Bible or the events it chronicles. Neither is such a find worthy of veneration. Yet, the three names on this bone box significantly increase the number of biblical characters whose very names can be definitively found in archaeological discoveries.
This ossuary is one more external evidence contributing to the veracity of the Bible as precisely what it claims for itself, inspired revelation from Almighty God. Again, the Bible is found to be accurate in circumstances that lend themselves to scientific evaluation, and, therefore, the Bible is equally credible in circumstances that simply do not lend themselves to scientific scrutiny (i.e., doctrine).
What does it mean when you say "set your face like flint?" Thanks, Pat Moran
The phrase to which reference is made above pertains to part of a Messianic prophecy. "For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed" (Isaiah 50:7). That Isaiah 50:7 is part of a Messianic prophecy is evident from verse 6: "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting." Compare Matthew 26:67; 27:26. The following observation from the commentator, Albert Barnes, explains the different uses of this phrase as well as what it means in the context of Isaiah 50.
To harden the face, the brow, the forehead, might be used either in a bad or a good sense-in the former as denoting shamelessness or haughtiness (see the note at Isa 48:4); in the latter denoting courage, firmness, resolution. It is used in this sense here; and it means that the Messiah would be firm and resolute amidst all the contempt and scorn which he would meet, and would not shrink from any kind or degree of suffering which should be necessary to accomplish the great work in which he was engaged. (Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)