Even More on the "Sons of God" in Genesis 6

William Arnold III

(original article: More on Genesis 6)

First I would like to say, that although I seem to find myself continually in this discussion, this is not something that I think to be of major importance. I simply defend the view that the sons of God are angels because I believe it does the most justice to the text and because I tend to believe that the motivation for the opposing view is that the idea of angels mixing with humans sounds too strange to many people. In other words, this is not the conclusion we would come to if we approached this just like any other passage--without theological bias.

My response is as follows:


Regarding your response to the gentlemen's question concerning the identity of the Sons of God in Genesis 6. Just out of curiosity, can you define exactly what you mean by your statement: <<But based upon exegesis and standard hermeneutical principals, I understand the passage to be referring to angels.>>


I mean that I am basing my conclusion upon exegesis and hermeneutics as opposed to "theological" reasons, such as "Angels and humans cannot mate." This is the usual objection that I hear.


While I would be the first to admit that the phrase "Sons of God" in the Old Testament (Job 1:6, 38:7) generally refers to angels, I do not believe in my humble opinion that this is always the case. Without question words are defined by their immediate context. That being the case, this fact limits the usefulness of "proof-texting" (i.e., stringing together verses from a variety of contexts on the basis of similarity of vocabulary). In other words, just because a word is used one way in one context, doesn't necessary mean that it should be used the exact same way in another context (e.g., Paul's use of the word Justification in James, Romans & Hebrews). Prooftexting is only valid when the contexts show that the verses do indeed address the same subject.


First I would ask, do you have a clear example where the phrase "Sons of God" clearly does not refer to angels in the Old Testament? If, as you admit, this is the usual meaning, then we have no reason to understand it differently unless context or something else demands it. For instance, the phrase "The Son of Man" usually (perhaps always) refers to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Therefore, when I come across this phrase, I am safe to assume this meaning unless there is reason to think differently.

If examining the various occurrences of words and terms in different passages and contexts is "proof-texting" and therefore illegitimate, then I don't know how else we would arrive at their meaning. This is the standard approach that any lexicon takes. We look at how a word or term is used in various clear passages in order to shed light on the more obscure passages. So-called "proof-texting" is only illegitimate when we only look at those passages which support our view and ignore others. I have examined all of the passages I know of which use this term.


I see at least three problems with interpreting the phrase "Sons of God" in Genesis 6 as Angels, instead of as the godly seed of Seth.

(1) Context of Genesis 6:1-7

a. The author (Moses) just got through tracing the descendents of Cain (Genesis 4) and Seth (Genesis 5), therefore it would seem more plausible to understand the phrase Sons of God as the godly seed of Seth, not Angels.
b. The immediate context says nothing about the judgment of angels(see Gen. 6:3,5,6,7) only the pending judgment of mankind. To go outside the immediate context (Jude 6,7) to try and prove that Genesis 6 teaches that it was the Sons of God who committed sexual immorality by having sexual intercourse with the daughters of men, is in my opinion questionable hermeneutics.


a. - It may be more plausible, if we can demonstrate elsewhere that this term is ever used for human beings in the Old Testament. If we have a precedent for this meaning, then and only then can we seek to apply it here.
b. - To state that the context says nothing about the judgment of angels is to assume what you are trying to prove. If the term "Sons of God" refers to angels, then it does. This is the question we are seeking to answer. As far as going to other passages which deal with this topic, I fail to see any problem with this at all. Jude and 2 Peter were inspired by that same Holy Spirit as the book of Genesis. All I am doing is allowing scripture to interpret scripture. How can this be "questionable hermeneutics"?

Furthermore, the "godly line of Seth" interpretation is highly unlikely as I demonstrate in my first article: Who Were the Sons of God in Genesis 6? Even many of those today who reject the view that they are angels recognize this and have tried various other (creative) attempts to deal with this passage.


(2) Context of Jude 6-15:

I'm not convinced that Jude 6 and 7 seem to state very clearly that the angels in Tartarus are there because they committed sexual immorality.

I think that the point Jude is making here is not necessarily that the angels are in Tartarus because they committed sexual immorality, but they are there because they committed rebellion. Although I cannot prove this (at least not at this point), I think that the 'sin' Jude was referring to here in this passage, refers to when the angels chose to rebel with Lucifer against God (God's authority). I believe that the angels referred to here are the same angels that were cast out of heaven with Lucifer in Revelation 12. I don't believe that when Lucifer rebelled against God (Isaiah 14), he rebelled by himself. Revelation 12 alone, proves this as far as I'm concerned.

The examples or illustrations cited here by Jude (disbelieving Israelites out of Egypt (v 5); angels that left their domain (v6); cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (v 7); filthy dreamers (false teachers) (v 8)), are all examples of ungodliness, as demonstrated by their unbelief, rebellion and irreverence against authority. If they were all examples of sexual immorality, then your point would carry a lot more weight. But that's not the case here.


Jude cannot be referring to Satan (or Lucifer) and his angels because they are loose and active in the world today. They are not locked up in chains in Tartarus. Whatever view you may take on Genesis 6, Jude has to be referring to different angels. Satan and his angels were cast down to the earth (Rev. 12:9), where they are today. He is presently "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), or the "lower atmosphere," where life on this planet dwells. He is also called "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4). He is obviously not locked up in chains. (Quite possibly, the leader of these other angels is the "Apollyon" of the book of Revelation [Hebrew "Abaddon," Rev. 9:11]).

Concerning the sin of the angels in Jude 6, the Greek (and even most English translations) is very clear that similar things are in view in both verse 6 and 7 (this is not the case with the other verses you mention). Verse 7 begins with the conjunction hos, which means "just as" or even "in the same way as." The people of Sodom and Gomorrah committed sin in the same way as those angels did (obviously not identically, as the former included homosexuality). Notice especially how this is brought out in the New English Translation, "So also Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire" (emphasis added). The conjunction connects the thought of the two verses, showing that similar things are in view in both of them. This, of course, does not exclude the sins of "unbelief, rebellion and irreverence against authority" that you mention.


By the way, do you happen to know what Brother Segraves' position is on Genesis 6?


When I had Brother Segraves as a teacher he seemed to be undecided on this issue. As I remember, he expressed his openness to the possibility that this was referring to angels, but did not take a strong stance either way. In fact, the first article on our site (Who Were the Sons of God in Genesis 6?) is an expansion of a paper I wrote on angelology in his systematic theology class. I got it back without any objections.

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