The Sons of God in Genesis 6: Josephus, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras,Commodianus, & Augustine
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VI. Angelic Appearances (3 Theories)
1. Simulation - Angels appear in different forms during which they reproduce the very nature and functions of the form they take. Critique: This is impossible for it would imply the essential transformation of angelic nature and confusion in the order of creation. Proof: Angels never appear in reality as animals or as females.
2. Restriction – Angels appear in different forms only superficially; essentially, however, they are restricted to their own angelic nature. Critique: This view assumes that angels use deceptive methods in their ministry, which is false.
Against both the theories, the fact that God neither uses deception nor is in short of instruments (when God needed a fish, He used a fish and didn’t transform an angel into a fish) counts.
3. Negation – Angels do not assume different forms but appear as they are, though in different dimensions of glory (Jdg.13:3-5). It is, then, safe to infer from this that angels look like humans. In fact, Jesus said that in the resurrection men would be like angels (Mt. 22:30).
JUSTIN MARTYR [A.D. 110-165.], THE SECOND APOLOGY
The Sons of God were angels who cohabited with the daughters of men to produce giants who became evil spirits.
Chap. V.—How the Angels Transgressed. But if this idea take possession of some one, that if we acknowledge God as our helper, we should not, as we say, be oppressed and persecuted by the wicked; this, too, I will solve. God, when He had made the whole world, and subjected things earthly to man, and arranged the heavenly elements for the increase of fruits and rotation of the seasons, and appointed this divine law—for these things also He evidently made for man—committed the care of men and of all things under heaven to angels whom He appointed over them. But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness. Whence also the poets and mythologists, not knowing that it was the angels and those demons who had been begotten by them that did these things to men, and women, and cities, and nations, which they related, ascribed them to god himself, and to those who were accounted to be his very offspring, and to the offspring of those who were called his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and to the children again of these their offspring. For whatever name each of the angels had given to himself and his children, by that name they called them.
ATHENAGORUS (AD 177), A PLEA FOR THE CHRISTIANSCh.XXIV. For this is the office of the angels,—to exercise providence for God over the things created and ordered by Him; so that God may have the universal and general providence of the whole, while the particular parts are provided for by the angels appointed over them.81 Just as with men, who have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice (for you would not either honour the good or punish the bad, unless vice and virtue were in their own power; and some are diligent in the matters entrusted to them by you, and others faithless), so is it among the angels. Some, free agents, you will observe, such as they were created by God, continued in those things for which God had made and over which He had ordained them; but some outraged both the constitution of their nature and the government entrusted to them: namely, this ruler of matter and its various forms, and others of those who were placed about this first firmament (you know that we say nothing without witnesses, but state the things which have been declared by the prophets); these fell into impure love of virgins, and were subjugated by the flesh, and he became negligent and wicked in the management of the things entrusted to him. Of these lovers of virgins, therefore, were begotten those who are called giants.82 And if something has been said by the poets, too, about the giants, be not surprised at this: worldly Wisdom and divine differ as much from each other as truth and plausibility: the one is of heaven and the other of earth; and indeed, according to the prince of matter,—
“We know we oft speak lies that look like truths.”83
Chap. XXV.—The Poets and Philosophers Have Denied a Divine Providence. These angels, then, who have fallen from heaven, and haunt the air and the earth, and are no longer able to rise to heavenly things, and the souls of the giants, which are the demons who wander about the world, perform actions similar, the one (that is, the demons) to the natures they have received, the other (that is, the angels) to the appetites they have indulged. But the prince of matter, as may be seen merely from what transpires, exercises a control and management contrary to the good that is in God:—
“Ofttimes this anxious thought has crossed my mind,
Whether ’tis chance or deity that rules
The small affairs of men; and, spite of hope
As well as justice, drives to exile some
Stripped of all means of life, while others still
Continue to enjoy prosperity.”84
COMMODIANUS (AD 240), INSTRUCTIONSIII. The Worship of Demons. When Almighty God, to beautify the nature of the world, willed that that earth should be visited by angels, when they were sent down they despised His laws. Such was the beauty of women, that it turned them aside; so that, being contaminated, they could not return to heaven. Rebels from God, they uttered words against Him. Then the Highest uttered His judgment against them; and from their seed giants are said to have been born. By them arts were made known in the earth, and they taught the dyeing of wool, and everything which is done; and to them, when they died, men erected images. But the Almighty, because they were of an evil seed, did not approve that, when dead, they should be brought back from death. Whence wandering they now subvert many bodies, and it is such as these especially that ye this day worship and pray to as gods.
AUGUSTINE, THE CITY OF GOD (354-430)The Sons of God are children of the City of God. The Daughters of Men belong to the Earthly City (Worldly and Wicked). The Apocryphal books such as the Book of Enoch must not be relied upon.
Chapter 22.-Of the Fall of the Sons of God Who Were Captivated by the Daughters of Men, Whereby All, with the Exception of Eight Persons, Deservedly Perished in the Deluge.
When the human race, in the exercise of this freedom of will, increased and advanced, there arose a mixture and confusion of the two cities by their participation in a common iniquity. And this calamity, as well as the first, was occasioned by woman, though not in the same way; for these women were not themselves betrayed, neither did they persuade the men to sin, but having belonged to the earthly city and society of the earthly, they had been of corrupt manners from the first, and were loved for their bodily beauty by the sons of God, or the citizens of the other city which sojourns in this world. Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked. And thus, when the good that is great and proper to the good was abandoned by the sons of God, they fell to a paltry good which is not peculiar to the good, but common to the good and the evil; and when they were captivated by the daughters of men, they adopted the manners of the earthly to win them as their brides, and forsook the godly ways they had followed in their own holy society. And thus beauty, which is indeed God's handiwork, but only a temporal, carnal, and lower kind of good, is not filly loved in preference to God, the eternal, spiritual, and unchangeable good. When the miser prefers his gold to justice, it is through no fault of the gold, but of the man; and so with every created thing. For though it be good, it may be loved with an evil as well as with a good love: it is loved rightly when it is loved ordinately; evilly, when inordinately, It is this which some one has briefly said in these verses in praise of the Creator:74 "These are Thine, they are good, because Thou art good who didst create them. There is in them nothing of ours, unless the sin we coimmit when we forget the order of things, and instead of Thee love that which Thou hast made."
But if the Creator is truly loved, that is, if He Himself is loved and not another thing in His stead, He cannot be evilly loved; for love itself is to be ordinately loved, because we do well to love that which, when we love it, makes us live well and virtuously. So that it seems to me that it is a brief but true definition of virtue to say, it is the order of love; and on this account, in the Canticles, the bride of Christ, the city of God, sings, "Order love within me."75 It was the order of this love, then, this charity or attachment, which the sons of God disturbed when they forsook God, and were enamored of the daughters of men.76 And by these two names (sons of God and daughters of men) the two cities are sufficiently distinguished. For though the former were by nature children of men, they had come into possession of another name by grace. For in the same Scripture in which the sons of God are said to have loved the daughters of men, they are also called angels of God; whence many suppose that they were not men but angels.
Chapter 23.-Whether We are to Believe that Angels, Who are of a Spiritual Substance, Fell in Love with the Beauty of Women, and Sought Them in Marriage, and that from This Connection Giants Were Born.
In the third book of this work (c. 5) we made a passing reference to this question, but did not decide whether angels, inasmuch as they are spirits, could have bodily intercourse with women. For it is written, "Who maketh His angels spirits,"77 that is, He makes those who are by nature spirits His angels by appointing them to the duty of bearing His messages. For the Greek word a!ggeloj, which in Latin appears as "angelus," means a messenger. But whether the Psalmist speaks of their bodies when he adds, "and His ministers a flaming fire," or means that God's ministers ought to blaze with love as with a spiritual fire, is doubtful. However, the same trustworthy Scripture testifies that angels have appeared to men in such bodies as could not only be seen, but also touched. There is, too, a very general rumor, which many have verified by their own experience, or which trustworthy persons who have heard the experience of others corroborate, that sylvans and fauns, who are commonly called "incubi," had often made wicked assaults upon women, and satisfied their lust upon them; and that certain devils, called Duses by the Gauls, are constantly attempting and effecting this impurity is so generally affirmed, that it were impudent to deny it.78 From these assertions, indeed, I dare not determine whether there be some spirits embodied in an aerial substance (for this element, even when agitated by a fan, is sensibly felt by the body), and who are capable of lust and of mingling sensibly with women; but certainly I could by no means believe that God's holy angels could at that time have so fallen, nor can I think that it is of them the Apostle Peter said, "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment."79 I think he rather speaks of these who first apostatized from God, along with their chief the devil, who enviously deceived the first man under the form of a serpent But the same holy Scripture affords the most ample testimony that even godly man have been called angels; for of John it is written: "Behold, I send my messenger (angel) before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way."80 And the prophet Malachi, by a peculiar grace specially communicated to him, was called an angel.81
But some are moved by the fact that we have read that the fruit of the connection between those who are called angels of God and the women they loved were not men like our own breed, but giants; just as if there were not born even in our own time (as I have mentioned above) men of much greater size than the ordinary stature. Was there not at Rome a few years ago, when the destruction of the city now accomplished by the Goths was drawing near, a woman, with her father and mother, who by her gigantic size over-topped all others? Surprising crowds from all quarters came to see her, and that which struck them most was the circumstance that neither of her parents were quite up to the tallest ordinary stature. Giants therefore might well be born, even before the sons of God, who are also called angels of God, formed a connection with the daughters of men, or of those living according to men, that is to say, before the sons of Seth formed a connection with the daughters of Cain. For thus speaks even the canonical Scripture itself in the book in which we read of this; its words are: "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair [good]; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord God 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. 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 the giants, men of renown."82 These words of the divine book sufficiently indicate that already there were giants in the earth in those days, in which the sons of God took wives of the children of men, when they loved them because they were good, that is, fair. For it is the custom of this Scripture to call those who are beautiful in appearance "good." But after this connection had been formed, then too were giants born. For the words are: "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." Therefore there were giants both before, "in those days," and "also after that." And the words, "they bare children to them," show plainly enough that before the sons of God fell in this fashion they begat children to God, not to themselves,-that is to say, not moved by the lust of sexual intercourse, but discharging the duty of propagation, intending to produce not a family to gratify their own pride, but citizens to people the city of God; and to these they as God's angels would bear the message, that they should place their hope in God, like him who was born of Seth, the son of resurrection, and who hoped to call on the name of the Lord God, in which hope they and their offspring would be co-heirs of eternal blessings, and brethren in the family of which God is the Father.
But that those angels were not angels in the sense of not being men, as some suppose, Scripture itself decides, which unambiguously declares that they were men. For when it had first been stated that "the angels of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose," it was immediately added, "And the Lord God said, My Spirit shall not always strive with these men, for that they also are flesh." For by the Spirit of God they had been made angels of God, and sons of God; but declining towards lower things, they are called men, a name of nature, not of grace; and they are called flesh, as deserters of the Spirit, and by their desertion deserted [by Him]. The Septuagint indeed calls them both angels of God and sons of God, though all the copies do not show this, some having only the name" sons of God." And Aquila, whom the Jews prefer to the other interpreters,83 has translated neither angels of God nor sons of God, but sons of gods. But both are correct. For they were both sons of God, and thus brothers of their own fathers, who were children of the same God; and they were sons of gods, because begotten by gods, together with whom they themselves also were gods, according to that expression of the psalm: "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High."84 For the Septuagint translators are justly believed to have received the Spirit of prophecy; so that, if they made any alterations under His authority, and did not adhere to a strict translation, we could not doubt that this was divinely dictated. However, the Hebrew word may be said to be ambiguous, and to be susceptible of either translation, "sons of God," or "sons of gods."
Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal, because their obscure origin was unknown to the fathers from whom the authority of the true Scriptures has been transmitted to us by a most certain and well-ascertained succession. For though there is some truth in these apocryphal writings, yet they contain so many false statements, that they have no canonical authority. We cannot deny that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, left some divine writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical epistle. But it is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people by the diligence of successive priests; for their antiquity brought them under suspicion, and it was impossible to ascertain whether these were his genuine writings, and they were not brought forward as genuine by the persons who were found to have carefully preserved the canonical books by a successive transmission. So that the writings which are produced under his name, and which contain these fables about the giants, saying that their fathers were not men; are properly judged by prudent men to be not genuine; just as many writings are produced by heretics under the names both of other prophets, and more recently, under the names of the apostles, all of which, after careful examination, have been set apart from canonical authority under the title of Apocrypha. There is therefore no doubt that, according to the Hebrew and Christian canonical Scriptures, there were many giants before the deluge, and that these were citizens of the earthly society of men, and that the sons of God, who were according to the flesh the sons of Seth, sunk into this community when they forsook righteousness, Nor need we wonder that giants should be born even from these. For all of their children were not giants; but there were more then than in the remaining periods since the deluge. And it pleased the Creator to produce them, that it might thus be demonstrated that neither beauty, nor yet size and strength, are of much moment to the wise man, whose blessedness lies in spiritual and immortal blessings, in far better and more enduring gifts, in the good things that are the peculiar property of the good, and are not shared by good and bad alike. It is this which another prophet confirms when he says, "These were the giants, famous from the beginning, that were of so great stature, and so expert in war. Those did not the Lord choose, neither gave He the way of knowledge unto them; but they were destroyed because they had no wisdom, and perished through their own foolishness."85
CONCLUSIONThe former post-exilic Jewish interpretations that the angels cohabited with women were, most probably, influenced by the pagan worldview of the time in which gods were also regarded as flesh and bones, but of a higher level. The Bible, however, specifically calls the angels as spirits.
Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:Augustine has already shown the distinction between the angels and flesh (i.e. humanity). Now while there are reasons to assume that the angels do have forms, for reasons shown in the introductory part, there are design reasons of creation (teleological) that prohibit us from imagining false things about them. In reality, apart from their appearances in human forms on earth, there are no reasons to assume that angels are three-dimensional beings like things in the material universe.
But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Also, it is not right to think of angelic spirits as possessing taste buds, and oesophagus, and intestines, and kidneys, and reproductive organs like humans have (far be it the production of semen (of a higher kind to be able to produce giants)!!!).
As far as the question if angels have creative power to transform themselves into men, etc, such theories are only mythical and polytheistic.
The term "sons of god" (Hebrew, ELOHIM) has been interpreted by some as sons of Seth and others as merely believers in God. The following different renderings of the same word can be seen in the Bible:
Then his master shall bring him unto the judges [ELOHIM]; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. (Exodus 21:6)If the word ELOHIM in Genesis 6:2 is taken in the sense of "exceeding" or "mighty" or "very great" and/or "judges"; then, it the sense of the text becomes clearer.
If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges [ELOHIM], to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour's goods. (Exodus 22:8)
The children of Heth to Abraham:
Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty [ELOHIM] prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. (Genesis 23:6)
Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty [ELOHIM] thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.
Now Nineveh was an exceeding [ELOHIM] great city of three days' journey. (Jonah 3:3)
And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great [ELOHIM] trembling. (1Samuel 14:15)
The "sons of gods" (gods, since ELOHIM is plural) were mighty men in strength and stature who were also the rulers over men, because in the pre-flood era, might was right. Therefore, they could take women as they chose and there was neither social structure nor system in which women could be protected. These and their sons were also the "mighty men" and "men of renown" (Genesis 6:4).
At any cost, "sons of gods" should not be interpreted as angels. Genesis 6 doesn't talk of angels and their judgment anywhere, and even the "sons of gods" mentioned in the chapter are placed in the context of mortality. After the flood, the strength and might began to greatly decrease. People didn't live like the pre-flood fathers for over 600 or 700 or even 900 years. After the flood, human government was established and strong societal structures came into existence. After the confusion of Babel Tower, the structures grew deep, distinct, and widespread.