Fatal Attraction By Wendy Wippel A church I visited recently, as an overture to the…
The Race on the Milk Carton
By Wendy Wippel
Tucked away in Genesis 6 is a passage I’ve never heard discussed on Sunday morning. And I bet you haven’t either. One that discusses a species other than ours. One that describes half-breed offspring created by intermarriage of this foreign species with humans. One that calls those half-breed offspring a very specific name, the Nephilim. Which in Hebrew means “fallen ones”.
They appear, kind of out of nowhere, actually. Reading along in Genesis 5 you get a perfectly straightforward account of the descendants of Adam as far as Noah. Then chapter 6, suddenly it seems that you may have mistaken your King James for the National Enquirer:
“Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
What is that about?
Fallen angels having sexual relations with human women? Why don’t we ever hear this passage exegeted on Sunday morning?
(Exegeted being a fancy religious word that means to provide textual explanation on Scripture).
We can tell without exegesis that whatever happened is Not Good, because the full impact of the situation is highlighted by the fact that verses 3-7 tell us that this development contributed to God’s decision to o destroy what he had made:
And the Lord said, “… There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
There is a lot going on here! And it’s obviously important. So why don’t we ever hear a textual explanation from our pastors?
It goes way, way back. To a man named Flavius Claudius Julianus. Julian for short. Julian was the half-nephew of the great emperor Constantine, who converted to Christianity in 312 A.D and thereafter made Rome an officially Christian Empire.
But he died in 312, and his death precipitated a massacre, in Constantinople, of his heirs (including Julian’s family) by other relatives, supposedly Christians themselves. Julian, only 6 when Constantine died, was brought up by a eunuch named Mardonius and the philosopher Nicocles, a pagan. Though Julian presented himself as a Christian a deep bitterness fueled a hatred of the Christian religion.
His uncle Constantius, now emperor, wanted him to train in the priesthood, but the unenthusiastic Julian was eventually permitted to study Plato. By the time he inherited the throne (which he did, in 355) he had thrown off all pretense of Christianity, devoting himself to restoring Roman paganism. He also hooked up with the top Roman Christian-hater of the day, a guy named Celsus, and together they decided that a great way to discredit Christianity was to publicize the Nephilim episode recorded in Genesis 6.
Despite the fact that early church fathers like Eusebius, Polycar, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and others (and heck, the Apostles Luke and Jude (at least) had held that view from the get-go.
Truth was irrelevant, however. Public image was the critical concern. And pretty soon, church leaders were unanimously gung-ho to reimagine this Biblical passage. It was an embarrassment.
Enter Julius Africanus, “Roman philosopher” and church historian who lived in Emmaus not too long before Constantine came to power. Some of his philosophical writings are still in existence, and in a collection entitled, “The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus,” we find this:
“When men multiplied on the earth, the angels of heaven came together with the daughters of men. (In some copies I found “the sons of God.”) What is meant by the Spirit, in my opinion, is that the descendants of Seth are called the sons of God on account of the righteous men and patriarchs who have sprung from him, even down to the Saviour Himself; but that the descendants of Cain are named the seed of men, as having nothing divine in them, on account of the wickedness of their race and the inequality of their nature, being a mixed people, and having stirred the indignation of God.”
That’s called the Sethite view of Genesis 6, and that’s pretty much how most pastors today would exegete it. The “sons of God” are godly men from the line of Seth. The Daughters of men are specifically ungodly women from the line of Cain.
Seth was the holy line, because they kept their line pure, and Cain was the unholy line because they intermarried.
Now we know where the theory came from (well, aside from the pit of hell…). The philosopher gave the theologians an out.
And they jumped on it.
I could give you a list of names from the 5th century that put their hat happily into the Sethite ring, the but that’d be overkill. The proof is all around us. Take a poll of pastors and you will likely get the Sethite view every time.
Julian and Celsus’ nefarious plot succeeded.
And that would be fine if the Bible backed their interpretation. But it doesn’t. The Sethite view has more holes in it than Hillary has alibies. If that were possible.
What does the Bible say? It says that the Sons of God came down and mated with human women.
Sons of God, found throughout Scripture, always refers in the Old Testament to beings that God himself created, most often angels. In Luke’s genealogy, Adam alone is referred to as a Son of God.
Sethites are not angels. And only God gives us the right to become Children of God.
The Bible says that the Nephilim had relationships with all earth women, not just the daughters of Cain and both lines would have been mixed.
The Bible describes all earth men as sinful, with no real reason to designate the descendents of Seth as particularly more holy than those of Cain. Enosh, apparently the first recorded blasphemer of God, descended from Seth. (according to the Jewish organization Chabad. Genesis 6:24 reads, in Hebrew, “ With Enosh, God’s name began to be profaned.” .
And Cain, despite his failures, had many children whose names included the name of God in them. Implying that he did, as God suggested, master his sinful nature. And the descendants of Seth died right along those of Cain in the flood.
The high-level view of the whole passage kind of seals the deal.
We get a summary of Noah’s genealogy in Chapter 5; remember from last week Noah was “perfect in his “genome”. It was unadulterated by the years of Nephilim contamination.
Noah’s family could be pretty ungodly, as the rest of Genesis shows.
God chooses Noah’s family to preserve through the flood, as he rids the earth of its contamination. and he uses Noah’s family to repopulate.
It wasn’t a problem of separating the sinners, it was a problem of eradicating the source. And after centuries of fallen angels making fallen women out of earth’s female population (they had sexual relationships with “ all of those they chose”), it apparently required a complete re-do.
A passage in Numbers, actually confirms that for the skeptic. God sends scouts into Canan, under Moses, to determine their ability to conquer the land God promised they would own.
We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there . (Descendents of Anak were the Nephilim.) The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.” Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the nephilim); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” Number 13:27-33
This time God shut it down. He specifically told the Israelites to kill every inhabitant of Cananan (Deut. 7:1-2)
And they did. And according to God, (Jude 6) the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
End of story.
BTW, there’s plenty of evidence of their actual existence in giant skeletons uncovered all over the world, and the fact that word mythology repeatedly echoes the existence of “supermen” who resulted from the union of “Gods” and human women.
So why don’t we ever hear an explanation from the pulpit? The Nephilim have virtually disappeared from the Bible.
And nobody ever put their face on a milk carton.
Personally, judging from the only minister I have ever seen even mention the Sethite theory and looked quite miserable doing it, I think any minister worth his salt knows enough Scripture to know that the whole thing is a Biblical snow job, but doesn’t really know what else to do with it. So its better to let sleeping dogs (or demons) lie.
What’s that verse about the whole counsel of God?