Contradictions in the Bible
Another problem in Genesis chapter 6 is the one found in verses 5-7. Does God Change His Mind? According to the mainstream Christian view, God is immutable, unchanging in His person, His perfections, His purposes, and His promises. At the same time, there are several biblical texts that suggest the idea that sometimes God changed His mind over the course of history. One of those texts is found in Genesis chapter 6:
“5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ 8 But Noah found favour in the sight of the LORD.” (Genesis 6; 5-8 NRSV)
The LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” is one of the most intriguing texts of the Bible. What does a Christian expect? God is Omniscient and He knows the future before it happens. When He created the universe, He knew that mankind would fall by disobedience and that such behavior would attract countless sufferings and death. God decided to create the universe and mankind regardless of the collateral damages. He had taken incredible risks and responsibilities because besides what is great He also created the occasion for pain and death.
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God should have known that mankind wasn’t prepared to discern between good and evil and that it would surely cede when confronted with Satan’s temptation. God had created man as a very curious being, curiosity being the engine of his or her interest in reality. The human beings were in fact not free to choose between good and evil because ignorance is an obstruction for the freedom of choice. Man and woman have reacted naturally according to their innate essence and absolute obedience isn’t in human nature. God created human nature and as far as He kept mankind from knowing good and evil, man and woman could have made only incompetent decisions.
Adam and Eve had missed basic education which was replaced by God’s authority and harsh warnings. How could they understand the meaning of death if even modern human beings have difficulties when trying to grasp it? In the context of the book of Genesis, for Adam and Eve death didn’t mean anything because they didn’t see anyone dying. If death wasn’t present in the creation Adam and Eve just couldn’t have grasped that notion. If death had been present before the human Fall, Apostle Paul was wrong in saying that death came into the world through Adam and Eve’s sins.
The appearance of death as a real phenomenon on Earth would have happened after God had mentioned death to humankind, according to the apostle Paul, but that is inconsistent with logic. For Adam and Eve, the promise of knowledge and the likeness of God would have had a meaning because they had the occasion to see or at least to hear Him. At the same time, the word “death” contained in God’s warning to them would have been meaningless.
Did God not know what the history of the human races would have been before creating mankind? Either He knew and created mankind according to that knowledge or He didn’t know and human behaviour came as a surprise for Him. From Genesis 6; 5-8, the second version seems to follow. What are the possibilities? God had a plan and in this project He knew that mankind would disobey Him, but also in this plan God decided beforehand that He would kill people and animals at a certain moment in the future. The Flood would have been planned by God at the same time as the creation of humankind, and people had to learn from the experience of the Flood and to become righteous. Did God not know that humankind would not learn anything and that the world would become even worse after the Flood?
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If God had known that mankind would fail morally, but in spite of that He created them and after that He killed most of them through the Flood, and in the end He will condemn the majority of humankind to hell, the conclusion is that God’s plan itself failed.
The development of humankind from moral to immoral, proposed by the book of Genesis, is a reversed reality because true evolution is from an initial immoral, instinctual way of life to a higher moral standard. Moral life didn’t diminish from perfection to imperfection, as the Bible says, but it developed in the opposite sense, toward an increase in morality and toward higher ethical standards. People became more conscious in time about the necessity of defending moral values in order to protect the health of the social environment.
Did God have a plan for all He was doing or did He sometimes regret what He did, as Genesis chapter 6; 5-8 states? Did God’s remorse also enter into His plan? Did God anticipate that He would be sorry for the creation of mankind? If the remorse had been anticipated by God and it was a part of the plan, why was humankind punished through the Flood? Was this destruction an element of the plan also? A plan in which God would have needed to liquidate the majority of the human population on Earth and many animals in order to save few human beings at the end of the world couldn’t have been conceived by a loving God. A loving God would have chosen a minimum of collateral damages but according to the Bible, He generates huge destruction.
Either God had accepted the future state of humankind before creating it or He had created human beings with the clear intention to destroy their majority at a certain time. In the first option the Flood doesn’t make sense and in the second one God cannot be equated with love as some texts of the N.T. maintain.
In Genesis chapter 6, God’s remorse seems to be authentic and not only a tactic applicable in His war with Satan. God had regretted the creation of humankind and that looks like a change in His mind. God created humankind but He regretted its creation after a while. That description given by the book of Genesis looks like a lack of both plannings and of the knowledge of the future. Either way, not knowing the future beforehand or planning inefficiently, or not planning at all, is far from what the Christian apologetics believe about God.
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Consequently, Genesis chapter 6; 5-8, is either an inadequate way of presenting God or speaks about another Being than the Reality portrayed by Christian commentators, a Being doomed to failure similar to humankind.
The text from Genesis chapter 6; 5-8 can be also a pure invention of the author aimed to motivate the alleged Flood, and this inadequate motivation shows that the book of Genesis isn’t inspired by God.
Let’s see what the arguments of the Christian apologetics about God’s remorse in Genesis chapter 6 are. There are many texts in the Bible which affirm that God doesn’t change His mind such as: Numbers 23:19, I Samuel 15:29, Psalms 33:11; 102:26-28; Hebrews 1:11-12; Malachi 3:6; Romans 11:29; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17.
There are also passages in which God “appears” to change His mind. The following is a text in which God changed His mind:
“11 But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ‘ 14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.” (Exodus 32; 11-14 NRSV)
To me this text looks very strange. What did God try to do with Moses? Was it a game or something serious? Did God need someone to remind Him about His own oath? Did He not know human nature and its vulnerability? This is not the image of God which we are used to contemplating in the Christian teachings. God ready to destroy an entire population and convinced to do otherwise by a man. Christianity is about God convincing humankind to be meek but not the other way around. In this story, Moses convinced God to prove self-restraint. The whole story is in contradiction with what makes God the Almighty God. The God that we are taught about during catechisms is much different than what the Bible says about Him. Here is another text about God changing His mind:
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“10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3; 10 NRSV)
In the case of Jonah, the repentance of the population of Nineveh explains God changing His mind. This is understandable and is a very different situation to the one happening in the desert which involved Moses. In the latter, God’s decision wasn’t conditioned by a change in the attitude of the Jewish people and it was a pure punitive action for disobedience. In the former, the punishment was conditioned by a change in human behaviour. Another example of God changing His mind is in Amos:
“3 The LORD relented concerning this; ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD. 4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: the Lord GOD was calling for a shower of fire,* and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5 Then I said, ‘O Lord GOD, cease, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’ 6 The LORD relented concerning this; ‘This also shall not be,’ said the Lord GOD.” (Amos 7; 3-6 NRSV)
God changing His mind in Exodus 32 is explained by the biblical apologists with the allegation that He had submitted people to a test. God wouldn’t have wanted to destroy the Jewish people but He intended to try Moses’ reaction about such a possibility. This is a very thin explanation. Could Moses have been so indifferent about his people to endorse God’s decision to annihilate his family, his friends, and his people? Such a thing would have been a very unlikely development. In point of fact, God had proposed a similar convention to Moses that He had with Noah, but Moses didn’t accept that proposition. There is a big difference between Moses and Noah because the latter was less concerned with his brothers’ and sisters’ fate. Nevertheless, the repetition of the same motif degrades somehow the credibility of both stories, giving to both of them the aspect of a fictitious literary work.
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The solution given by the apologists of a literal reading of the book of Genesis in this case is highly objectionable for several reasons. First of all, God is expected to have known Moses before giving him a mission in the interest of the Jewish people. God wouldn’t have needed a test to know Moses’ response to a certain situation because He is All-knowing. When God tested Abraham, the challenge was used as a metaphor for the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. The episode with Moses lacks a clear metaphorical sense. This kind of test doesn’t make sense in the biblical context. Comparing with Noah, even if he had failed such a test because he didn’t object to the destruction of the majority of humankind, Noah would have been considered righteous. Moses was righteous also without his defence of the people.
More importantly, the text in Exodus 32 cannot be considered to be a test because God had already acted as He said upon the Jewish people, but on a smaller scale.
"20 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: 21 Separate yourselves from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment. 22 They fell on their faces, and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one person sin and you become angry with the whole congregation?’ 23 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 24 Say to the congregation: Get away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” (Numbers 16; 20-24 NRSV)
According to Numbers God wanted to destroy the whole congregation because of the sins of Korah and his company. Moses didn’t agree with such a solution, considering it unfair. Did Moses have a more acute sense of justice than God? Moses asked God the following question: ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one person sin and you become angry with the whole congregation?’ God was really angry, and in His anger He didn’t consider justice, according with the book of Genesis. Moses has reminded God about justice and only after that speech did He change His mind. The motif of God killing entire congregations or even nations for the sins of some people is found again and again in the Bible. What kind of justice was that? Some commentators would answer that God did whatever He wished. This isn’t an acceptable solution because God being righteous, He should have done only what was right.
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Another explanation proposed by the commentators for God changing His mind would be that when God threatened to destroy a nation, if that nation repented, He would have changed His mind. The only legitimate objection in such a case would be that in all nations some people would repent and others wouldn’t. To punish a whole nation even if not all people are corrupt is something specific for the Bible and is based on the principle that no-one is naturally pure in front of God and all human beings are sinners. The principle that humankind is impure is based on the story of Adam and Eve which is only a legend. If Adam and Eve are legendary personages what else would make humankind impure in God’s eyes? Human nature cannot be described as pure or impure, it is structured to allow human beings’ survival in this world. At the same time, human beings can improve themselves and the Christian solution for that is to change their nature, and that is possible only with God’s help.
According to the book of Genesis, God didn’t create “pure” people but complex human beings endowed with curiosity and thirst for knowledge. God would have created human nature as it is today. Nonetheless, if Adam and Eve are only legendary personages their imaginary Fall couldn’t have changed human nature in any way, consequently humankind is what it is following God’s creation through evolution. That means that human provenance is linked with the entirety of nature, and because human beings were originally a kind of animal; they followed the instincts imbedded in their nature and not high moral principles.
At the same time, according to the Bible, there always were people considered to be righteous in God’s eyes, for example Abel, Noah, Lot and his family, Job or David, and that shows that even human nature cannot be seen as irremediably lost. How can we admit the existence of righteous people in the O.T. if Adam and Eve had a sinful nature after the Fall? If we take for granted the story of Adam and Eve the presence of righteous people would be inexplicable following humankind’s Fall. Many Christian commentators maintain that the human nature created by God changed dramatically after the Fall. If this would be the case no righteous people would have been found on Earth after that event because that would have been against human nature. Nevertheless, the Bible speaks about a small number of righteous people in a generation.
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Only Noah and his family have been righteous, all other human beings were unrighteous. What would have generated righteousness in the attitude of few human beings as opposed to the majority of humankind? Probably, faith in God would be the most common answer. At the same time, there isn’t any reason why only one person and his family would have been considered to have faith in God, therefore to be righteous if, according to the book of Genesis, humankind already started to call for His name. This doesn’t make sense because calling the name of God is an act of faith. (Genesis 4; 26)
The puzzle is the number of human beings which would have kept the faith in God between Adam and Abraham, which was very small. Only Noah from an entire generation of many, many human beings had been righteous. One would expect more than one man being righteous amongst hundreds of thousands or even several million human beings. The story is unbelievable if we take into consideration the small percentage of good people amongst humankind in a certain historical time. A minority of good people amongst a majority of corrupt ones would be understandable but only one man on the entire earth is doubtful. Noah was a human being, not the Son of God coming from heaven, therefore his unique situation amongst the population of the earth is inexplicable. As a matter of fact, without a law there wasn’t any objective criteria to know and to judge righteousness. We don’t know how righteous Noah would have been but unlike Moses he didn’t try to dissuade God from His decision to destroy the earth through the Flood.
Why didn’t God reveal Himself to other human beings instead of destroying them? God would have preferred to annihilate the majority of human population instead of revealing Himself to it. This is the logic of the book of Genesis which isn’t based on realities but on a legend which casts a very dark image of God, but that illustration most probably doesn’t correspond with His character.
The rationale about the changing of God’s mind in the case of the creation of humankind belongs to the context of the legend, and within the limits of that, because Noah also is only a legendary character about whom the Bible doesn’t give detailed information and he isn’t a real personage. This conclusion can be drawn from analysing the story of the Flood.
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God had created humankind in His likeness and blessed them and He declared that all His creation was very good. After a while God changed His mind and from being blessed humankind became cursed and He decided to destroy beings that were like Him and who once were very good. Did God bless humankind only for a while? In chapter 1 of the book of Genesis God had asked humankind to multiply and to subdue the earth. This is the biblical text:
“28 God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ (Genesis 1; 28 NRSV)
In those conditions the curse that followed after a while is a pure fantasy. The entire story of Adam and Eve is a legend but the way in which that legend develops shows us that God cannot be accused of things that He never did in reality. He never blessed Adam and Eve because they never existed and He never sent a Flood to destroy the majority of humankind. If He had done one of those things the other one would have been in total contradiction with the other.
From the creation of mankind until Moses’ Law there wasn’t any clear set of norms through which God’s moral standards would have been known by people. Where God’s Law wasn’t in function it wasn’t any responsibility of humankind before God and the nations survived by their own laws, before and after the apparition of Mosaic Law. The Jewish people had been guided initially by the Egyptian laws and after that directly by God through Moses, but other nations had their own religious beliefs and their laws. Those nations wouldn’t have been responsible before God because they didn’t receive His Law.
It is not fair to despise humankind or human nature just because they haven’t been instructed by God in the past. Before the Mosaic Law many legal norms of human origin prescribed similar rules of conduct as Moses’ Law did at a later time. I also wonder if the way in which the book of Genesis says that the human races would have developed on Earth, through incest and polygamy, wouldn’t have been a possible cause for so much sexual immorality if that method of multiplication would have been real. It is hard to give a definitive answer because the story of Adam and Eve is only fairy tale, but generally speaking incest and polygamy can be causes of immorality.
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What is here in contradiction is that God of the Bible sanctioned some causes of immorality which were incest and polygamy, but also punished harshly their effects.
“7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.” (Jeremiah 18; 7-10 NRSV)
It is hard to believe that all individuals from an entire nation would have had an identical attitude about good and evil and that all of them would have changed their behaviour. What would have happened in the situation in which half of the people in a nation turned from evil but not the other half? Again, that black and white approach doesn’t cover all situations. People cannot be judged and punished en masse but they have to respond individually for their deeds in order to reach justice. Some individuals couldn’t have responded legitimately before God for the others’ wrongdoings.
Didn’t God create all humankind? Did He create only the Jewish people? God had a covenant only with the Jewish people but He didn’t propose covenants to other nations. Why were the other nations judged harshly? People were condemned in blocks, good people together with the bad ones. If there had been righteous persons among Jewish people wouldn’t there have been such persons amongst other nations also? There isn’t any reason for which other nations wouldn’t have contained righteous persons together with unrighteous ones. The Bible presents a very strange way of doing justice, a kind of mass judgement which were applied unrightfully later in history to the Jewish people, also by the governments of some European countries. This is the way in which the O.T. depicts the history but most likely this isn’t the reality. Being just, God cannot be as wrathful as the O.T. depicts Him to be.
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Another explanation for God’s change of mind which comes from commentators of the book of Genesis is that He can change His program or strategies but never His purposes or His plans. Here is an example of this kind of argument:
“God promised to bring His people into the land of Canaan. Due to their unbelief the first generation did not possess the land, but the second generation did. When Jesus came He offered Himself to Israel as the Messiah. Her rejection has made possible the offer of the gospel to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, when God’s purposes for the Gentiles have been accomplished, God will once again pour out His grace and salvation upon the Jews. God’s program changes, but not His purposes (cf. Romans 9-11).”
Such an explanation cannot be used to explain the destruction of the majority of humankind through the Flood. God had to know that humankind would fall beforehand and the solution of killing so many people through the Flood wouldn’t have been an efficient one. The Flood could have killed human beings and animals but it couldn’t have been able to eliminate human nature and the sin. After the Flood the situation of humankind from a moral point of view wouldn’t have been superior to what was before. God from the book of Genesis should have known better, sin couldn’t have been eradicated through the Flood.
In Genesis chapter 6 verse 3 God said:
“3 Then the LORD said, ‘My spirit shall not abide* in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ (Genesis 6; 3 NRSV)
This verse is not in conformity with what the book of Genesis says would have happened after the Flood. Noah lived nine hundred and fifty years and not one hundred and twenty years as he would have lived according to Genesis chapter 6:
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“28 After the flood Noah lived for three hundred and fifty years. 29 All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.” (Genesis 9; 28-29 NRSV)
Other patriarchs also lived more than one hundred and twenty years, therefore Genesis chapter 6 verse 3 is in contradiction with other biblical texts also from Genesis.
“10 These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived after the birth of Arpachshad for five hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 11; 10-11 NRSV)
“12 When Arpachshad had lived for thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah; 13 and Arpachshad lived after the birth of Shelah for four hundred and three years, and had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 11; 12-13)
The book of Genesis contradicts its own assertions. If the human beings were destined to live for one hundred and twenty years there isn’t any reason for which they lived for hundreds of years. If God had set a limit for human life why wasn’t this limit respected? Human beings who lived for hundreds of years are an exaggeration if we accept the opinion of creationist commentators that after the alleged Fall human nature would have suffered a degradation. Most commentators maintain that human nature was badly affected by Adam and Eve’s Fall. At the same time, in spite of this supposed “degradation” human beings would have lived for hundreds of years, against God’s recommendation that they would reach only one hundred and twenty years. Such a situation doesn’t make sense.
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Chapter 6 of the book of Genesis is a very intriguing one. It speaks about special beings that had lived on Earth in ancient times. Who were those beings is the subject for many debates and very few opinions are able to shed some light on the issue.
“When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, ‘My spirit shall not abide* in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterwards—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.” (Genesis 6; 1-4 NRSV)
Who were “the sons of God”, “the daughters of man”, and the “Nephilin” in Genesis chapter 6, verses 1-4? There are three major interpretations of this expression circulating among the commentators and to which I want to add a fourth one which is probably the most convincing.
The combination between the ungodly Cainite with the godly Sethites.
The ‘sons of God’ are generally thought to be the godly men of the Sethite line. The ‘daughters of men’ are thought to be the daughters of the ungodly Cainite. The Nephilim are the ungodly men who are the product of this undesirable union. Chapter 4 from the book of Genesis describes the ungodly generation of Cain, while in chapter 5 we see the godly Sethite line. The premise of this line of argument is that Cain’s line of descendants and Seth’s line of descendants had to be separated because Cain was a criminal and Seth replaced Abel, the victim of Cain’s crime. No connections would have been adequate between the families of the criminal and of the victim.
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This version of interpretation is open to much possible criticism. In point of fact, humanity is seen by the Bible as a unity and not having two branches. God would have seen all humankind, not only Cain’s offspring, as having bad thoughts and as being unholy. Human beings were in unity and all were relatives amongst themselves.
Godly and ungodly are two notions applicable to certain individuals and not to whole families. Not all of Seth’s line would have been godly and not all of Caine’s line would have been ungodly. According to chapter 6 from the book of Genesis, few were godly in those days. Only Noah and his family could have been called righteous at the time of the Flood. If other people would have been righteous, they also probably would have been saved from the Flood, but only Noah and his family were deemed to be just by God.
Also, the “daughters of men” cannot be restricted to only the daughters of the Cainites. The “daughters of man” were not forced into this union with the sons of God. They would have been seen by the “sons of God” as suitable partners for them, they became their wives and they gave birth to children for them. The word “wife” is the key for this idea and this was a dignity attributed to the “daughters of man” by the “sons of God”.
If the sons of Seth’s line of inheritance had been married to Cain’s granddaughters, they all were relatives between them and they all started from the same set of DNA. Why would the product of such families have been giants? There isn’t any genetic explanation for such a phenomenon. Having the same DNA, all mankind had to be formed only from giants, but it wasn’t the case. Incest brings degeneration and not an increase in strength or other qualities. Nephilims were strong and courageous people, proving military prowess – they were not degenerates. A new set of genes had to be added to those of Adam and Eve’s in order to produce Nephilims.
The Despot Interpretation
In another interpretation, the sons of God are the sons of powerful rulers, identified by the languages of the Near East with “sons of God”. For example, in Egypt the Pharaoh was identified with the “son” of the Egyptian deity Re. The Hebrew word used in the O.T. for God, Elohim, was also used for men who exercised authority. In this view, “sons of God” should be understood to mean powerful nobles and kings.
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“1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement:” (Psalm 82; 1 NRSV)
Some of the commentators who maintain The Despot Interpretation are also of the opinion that the main sin of those despots was polygamy. I don’t think that polygamy would have really been a problem as far as Abraham or David had polygamous relations and that didn’t produce a strong reaction from God, as a matter of fact, no critical reaction was recorded by the book of Genesis about polygamy. If polygamy was so bad as to determine God to wipe out the majority of the human population through the Flood, why did He consider David’s polygamous relationships acceptable? The idea that polygamy would have determined God’s resolution to send the Flood isn’t sustained by the biblical texts.
There is no reason for Nephilim to be different than other people if they were the offspring of powerful human rulers. Genetically they had to be similar to all other human beings because they inherited the same DNA. In the Bible Nephilim are identified through their giganticness:
“32 So they brought to the Israelites an unfavourable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. 33 There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ (Numbers 13; 32-33 NRSV)
Someone probably would want to solve the dilemma of how the Flood destroyed the Nephilim and in spite of that, they have been recorded after the Flood as being existent on Earth. The “sons of God” had come to Earth before the Flood and Noah or his family wouldn’t have been Nephilim, any of them, because if they were they wouldn’t have been accepted on the boat.
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Nephilim couldn’t have lived on Earth after the Flood if the “sons of God” had come to Earth before the Flood and the Deluge had destroyed the entirety of humankind except Noah and his family, who by definition couldn’t have been Nephilim. That contradiction nullifies any validity of the story of the Flood by rendering it completely untruthful.
The existence of the Nephilim needed a new set of genes in combination with Adam and Eve’s genes, and they couldn’t have been provided by the usual human beings or by angels, either fallen or not. They could have been delivered only by another civilization very similar to humankind but different in the size of the body.
The fallen angels interpretation
According to this view in Genesis chapter 6 verses 2 and 4 the “sons of God” are angels, belonging to Satan’s crew with whom he came down to the earth. Those angels have taken the form of masculine human-like creatures. Those angels married women of the human race, either Cainites or Sethites, and from that union resulted Nephilim, giants with physical superiority who established themselves as men renowned for their physical prowess and military might. This race of half-human creatures would have been wiped out by the Flood, along with all other humans because all of them were sinners.
Some commentators reject the fallen angel interpretation because such a view is said to be in contradiction with reason and also with Scripture. In Mathew’s gospel Jesus said:
“29 Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels* in heaven.” (Matthew 22; 29-30 NRSV)
The commentators who support this view don’t find any problem in harmonising the text with the idea that the “sons of God” are fallen angels:
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“We are told that here our Lord said that angels are sexless, but is this really true? Jesus compared men in heaven to angels in heaven. Neither men nor angels are said to be sexless in heaven but we are told that in heaven there will be no marriage. There are no female angels with whom angels can generate offspring. Angels were never told to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ as was man. When we find angels described in the book of Genesis, it is clear that they can assume a human-like form, and that their sex is masculine. The writer to the Hebrews mentions that angels can be entertained without man’s knowing it (Hebrews 13; 2).”
From my point of view there are many problems with the interpretation of the texts in this manner. In each and every text in which the angels took on human aspects, it is about good angels and not fallen angels. We don’t have any examples of fallen angels taking human form. If such a phenomenon would be possible we could be surrounded by devils in human form all around us, but the Bible discourages such a perspective. This would be more than an individual who is said to be possessed by the devil; this would be devils with human bodies. We are surrounded by human beings and not by fallen angels. This assertion is important for the way we see our world and we treat our fellow human beings. We should never consider them to be devils if we want to respect Jesus’s teachings.
The process of becoming similar in form to man is under God’s control and overcame Satan’s abilities. The angels sent to Abraham and to Sodom and Gomorrah were also assigned by God. They took human form even if they were spiritual beings. Probably, biologically those angels were similar to all human beings and there is no reason to believe that they were different. How do we know? If they could easily mix with other human beings they had to be similar to them. They were not giants as the Bible describes the Nephilim. If we consider the episode in Sodom and Gomorrah, if the ‘male’ angels had been giants the people in the city wouldn’t have seen them as a possible prey.
The point is that in order to beget giants the fallen angels had to have a biological potential of their own and not biology identical with the human beings impersonating them. When taking a human body, a fallen angel would have taken all biological characteristics of a human being.
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To speculate that behind a human body a fallen angel would have had his own genetic potential to procreate is absurd.
The angels in God’s Paradise don’t multiply and that is what Jesus clearly said in Mathew 22; 29-30 therefore they are not endowed for multiplication. Why God would have endowed angels with the possibility of procreation if they wouldn’t multiply? If the angels would multiply by procreation God wouldn’t have needed to create human beings in order to replace one third of the angels who had fallen. If God didn’t endow angels with the possibility of procreation but they multiplied with the “daughters of men” then the logical consequence would be that the angels had the power to change their nature from the procreation point of view, but that is unacceptable in the biblical context.
The angels wouldn’t have had the creative power which would have enabled them to recreate their morphological structure. Angels either couldn’t procreate or they could, both versions don’t go together. A mixture between the two versions isn’t based on the Bible. Its texts imply that angels don’t procreate because if they don’t marry they cannot procreate. Procreation outside a marital relation is unacceptable in the biblical context from a moral point of view. God has the same moral standard for everyone, angels or humans, and for human beings procreation is recommended within a marital relationship.
To say that angels took human bodies is only an attempt to escape from the problem. Human bodies couldn’t generate Nephilim without the aid of a specific set of DNA, the creation of which isn’t described in the Bible.
At the same time, the explanation given to the texts that fallen angels had become in love with ancient women is not plausible for many reasons. Let’s try to figure out a world in which sexually active males constitute a community of spiritual beings that never have had sex. Why would God have created only male angels with sexuality if there were not females to multiply with them? Sexuality is a means for procreation and where procreation isn’t a purpose sexuality is useless. The angels had been created immortal; they didn’t need to procreate in order to multiply. Did God create sexually active male angels in view that they would fall in the future and mate with women? That would be nonsense because God didn’t like that union between His “sons” and the “daughters of man”.
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When someone departs from logic anything can be justified by all sorts of fantastic explanations. Jesus said it clearly: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels* in heaven”. Angels don’t marry and because they don’t marry they are sexless. Any sexual activity outside the marriage is prohibited under God’s moral standards therefore angels aren’t endowed with means of procreation if they don’t marry. Angels with sexual activity who don’t marry and, at the same time, sexual activity prohibited outside marriage, is absurd. The fallen angels wouldn’t have had the ability to procreate and to marry the “daughters of man”.
Pastor Doug Bachelor aptly clarified:
“Angels are spirits; they are not flesh. They are all around us now, but we cannot see them.—they don’t go to school, get jobs, or raise families. They are here to “minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrew 1;14). Even if they wanted to marry and have babies, they couldn’t; they don’t have human DNA. It would be easier for a jellyfish to marry a mountain goat than for angels to marry people. Thus, it doesn’t make practical sense to believe that our passage in Genesis refers to the marriage of angels, fallen or holy, to humans.”
The “sons of God” explained by the fallen angels theory is seen by many commentators as the most likely theory which could explain those verses, but is the most absurd from a rational point of view. Angels are not constructed as human beings are; they have not the same morphological structure because they are spiritual beings. When they dwell in the mind of a human being, that person is not different from any other person from a biological point of view. If God’s angels and people were the same kind of beings, there would be no difference between the spiritual world and the material realm.
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“Sons of God”, the representatives of an extra-terrestrial civilisation
None of the explanations given by the evangelical commentators have sufficient merits in order to be validated, but there is another possibility very little discussed. The “sons of God” were material extra-terrestrial beings similar to human beings but greater in power. They had their own genetic potential compatible with the human one and together the “sons of God” and the “daughters of man” procreated the Nephilim. As I mentioned previously, God in the book of Genesis looks more like a special man than like a universal spiritual Reality. The way in which Adam saw his son Seth is described in Genesis chapter 5 and it is identical with the way in which God had seen humankind in Genesis chapter 1.
“When God created humankind,* he made them* in the likeness of God.” This description of the creation of humankind is like the way in which Adam saw his son Seth, and for this reason by extrapolation one can imagine God as a bigger “man” similar to the human beings but not identical. How such an extraordinary “man” could be eternal is another question. Maybe God who was revealed to Abraham is different than the philosophical and theological understanding of Him. Anthropomorphism may be the key to understanding God if we consider also that the Son of God, Christ, had taken a human body.
"3 When Adam had lived for one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5; 1-3 NRSV)
From my point of view this verse is very important for the understanding of the book of Genesis. God had created humankind in His likeness and mankind created and still creates other human beings, also in their likeness. The universal cosmic Man or Someone similar to man, Someone who would have been an extra-terrestrial Being, had created man. The book of Genesis can be seen to represent a continuation of the human anthropogenesis over the boundaries of the earth through the means of myths.
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Chapter 6 from the book of Genesis can represent the remnants of an ancient encounter between humankind and an extra-terrestrial civilization, but such an encounter doesn’t give us any understanding to how the cosmos was generated. To be more relevant such an extraordinary theory must be correlated with other possible evidence.
Probably, both Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2 contain plenty of anthropomorphic elements just because they intended to be anthropomorphic and to illustrate a possible way in which an extra-terrestrial human-like Being would have created the universe. The philosophical construction about an infinite Reality is only a late development. God of the O.T. looks more like an extra-terrestrial civilization trying to educate humankind, but an extra-terrestrial Being coming from another planet couldn’t have created the universe as the Bible says. God is not alone; He is amongst His sons, who also are gods. Monotheism and the biblical texts about the “sons of God” have been gathered in a unique vision but the relationship between God and His “sons” has many unexplained dimensions.
God could have generated more than one material world. Nevertheless, the Bible doesn’t speak about the creation of other intelligent civilizations by God during the six days in which He would have created the entire universe and humankind. According to the book of Genesis there isn’t any time during the creation week in which God could have created other intelligent civilizations, therefore in the context of the Bible the existence of such worlds is pure speculation.
In the beginning, God couldn’t have created other civilizations because those are based in the sky, and the dome of the sky was created only on the second day. After the second day of creation the Bible tells us every step made by God in the process of creation; the stars and consequently other planets would have been created only on the fourth day with the function of illuminating the earth. As a matter of fact, the Bible speaks only about the creation of the stars but not about other planets, as it is the earth which could host life.
Doug Bachelor identifies the “sons of God” as the administrators of other worlds than ours and explains a difference between what the Bible understands through angels and also through “sons of God”.
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“Adam was the son of God, created to have dominion over the Earth. Thus one definition for sons of God is those beings God Himself created to have dominion over the worlds He made. These beings were not born but were created directly by God. Job 38:7 tells us that when our world was created, “the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy.” The “morning stars” are angels, whereas “the sons of God” are the leaders of other worlds.”
Beside the texts of the Bible, we don’t have direct proof that such “sons of God” really exist. We can take few skeletons of large dimensions found on Earth and they could be some evidence that Nephilim truly had existed.
In many biblical texts we can find the expression “sons of God” for people who, being born again, became the children, sons, and daughters of the One from whom they are reborn.
“12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1 12-13 NRSV)
“25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Galatians 3; 25-26 NRSV)
Otherworldly beings who didn’t sin could be named children or sons of God but there is a problem. When they came to Earth they disobeyed God and that would have been a strong reason not to name them the “sons of God” anymore. If the expression “sons of God” had been suitable only for someone who obeys Him, this expression wouldn’t apply to beings that had come to Earth in spite of God’s interdiction. Did the “sons of God” have His approval before coming to Earth? This question can be answered negatively if we follow the story and see that God wasn’t happy with the result of the multiplication of the “sons of God” with the “daughters of man”.
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The consequence is that God sent the Flood over humankind for their inequities. The “sons of God” would have been powerful and respected beings and so were the Nephilim, their offspring, but something wrong happened with them and they displeased Him.
The Nephilim aren’t the offspring of the sons of God and of the daughters of man.
Another interpretation which must be taken in consideration is that the Nephilim aren’t the children born to the “sons of God” and daughters of men. If we attentively read the biblical passage we can notice that the book of Genesis doesn’t say that the Nephilim would have been the offspring of the “sons of God” and of the daughters of men.
“4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterwards—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.” (Genesis 6; 4 NRSV)
The Nephilim would have been on the earth in those days when the sons of God would have gone into the daughters of humans. If the Nephilim were already on Earth when the “sons of God” married the daughters of men, that means that they couldn’t have been the offspring of the “sons of God”. The children resulted from the union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” were the heroes of old, warriors of renown. Were the Nephilim the same personages as the “heroes that were of old”? I consider that the book of Genesis says they are different characters. The Nephilim were neither Adam and Eve’s offspring nor the result of the marriages between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men”. How did the Nephilim come to Earth? They weren’t related to the “sons of God” but they are as difficult to be identified as are the former. In chapter 6 of the book of Genesis we have four different kinds of beings. The “sons of God”, the Nephilim, the heroes resulting from the marriages between the “sons of God” and human beings, and the human beings.
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The entire story is pretty confused. The “sons of God” coming to Earth without His approval, marrying the “daughters of man”, making children with them and only after a long period of time being destroyed by Him for their disobedience, seems an unlikely story.
A parallel can be made between Christ coming to Earth as the Son of God and embodying himself in a human being through the Virgin Mary and the “sons of God” who married the “daughters of men” and also generated human beings. It is the same idea of “sons of God” coming to Earth and multiplying with the “daughters of men” but in Genesis they were negative personages and in the N.T. Christ is the Saviour of humankind. What is strange is that the “sons of God” of old, in spite of being seen somehow negatively by the book of Genesis, they were beneficial for humankind, teaching them many professions. Probably, they were depicted as negative personages precisely because they helped humankind to increase their knowledge. Christ also is on the side of humankind, dying for the human beings and teaching them salvation.
The myth of Prometheus with gods on human’s side against other gods is a common motif. The “sons of God” were gods who helped humankind against God’s will. At the same time, the rebellion of the “sons of God” against their Father when they married the “daughters of men” and taught humankind their science, is in a way a repetition of both motifs of the tree of knowledge and of Satan’s revolt against Him.
What is the theory which could better explain the meaning of the expression the “sons of God” in Genesis chapter 6? This text is an insertion in the book of Genesis generated by influences made by different old stories about visits paid to the earth by alien civilizations. The following is a quotation which summarises this view:
“Most people believe in aliens - from ancient visitors to modern day extraterrestrials who visit Earth with an agenda. Clearly the creation myths of each ancient civilization discuss alien gods who descended from the sky for any number of reasons, some of who allegedly mated with human woman to create bloodlines, or created humans through biogenetic experiments ….. According to ancient alien theorists, most of whom have researched the topic for decades, extraterrestrials with superior knowledge of science and engineering landed on Earth thousands of years ago, sharing their expertise with early civilizations and forever changing the course of human history. researchers to this day look for evidence to support this theory.”
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In my opinion the text from Genesis chapter 6 cannot be understood isolated from the ancient culture of humankind. This very strange assertion must be put in a biblical context and also in a larger context of so many stories which indicate contact between humankind and aliens coming from outer space.
If angels are spiritual beings and not material ones, not having DNA and not being endowed for procreation, the only credible interpretation of the text from Genesis chapter 6; 1-4 have to be linked with so many other references of extra-terrestrial beings from other ancient texts.
“While the Book of Genesis contains references to the fallen angels as ‘Nephilim’, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain the original sources for this information. The Book of Enoch gives a highly detailed account of the activities of 200 fallen angels or ‘Nephilim’/’Watchers’ who were locked into a deep conflict with the ‘righteous angels’ or ‘Aeons’. The Nephilim proceeded to interbreed with humanity and created a race of giants that had much authority until the time of the Noah and the great flood. The Book of Enoch gives surprising validation to the theory of extraterrestrial visitation, and that this involved genetic intermixing with ancient humanity.”
After discovering the Book of Enoch in 1773 in Ethiopia, James Bruce writes:
“Amongst the articles I consigned to the library at Paris was a very beautiful and magnificent copy of the prophecies of Enoch, in large Quarto; another is amongst the books of scripture that I brought home, standing immediately before the book of Job, which is its proper place in the Abyssinian Cannon: and a third copy I presented to the Bodleian Library at Oxford, by the hands of Dr. Douglass, the Bishop of Carlisle.”
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Lyman Abbott also notes:
“Reverting to the second century of Christianity, we find Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria citing the Book of Enoch without questioning it’s sacred character. Thus, Irenaeus, assigning to the Book of Enoch an authenticity analogous to that of Mosaic literature, affirms that Enoch, although a man, filled the office of God’s messenger to the angels. Tertullian, who flourished at the close of the first and at the beginning of the second century, whilst admitting that the ‘Scripture of Enoch’ is not received by some because it is not included in the Hebrew Canon, speaks of the author as ‘the most ancient prophet, Enoch,’ and of the book as the divinely inspired autograph of that immortal patriarch...”
There is no doubt that Genesis chapter 6; 1-4 is not singular to the old religious texts belonging to the Judeo-Christian tradition and that the idea of an extra-terrestrial civilization is not foreign to those texts. This conclusion is in contradiction with the fact that the book of Genesis doesn’t give any hint in the description of the week of creation, about the apparition of such entities in the cosmos. According to the book of Enoch, these civilizations had taught mankind certain technologies:
“And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cutting, ‘Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Êzêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun, and Sariêl the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven...”
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Much knowledge which would have been offered by the “sons of God” to humankind didn’t enter the book of Genesis and the proof is its naïve cosmology. The first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis hadn’t been inspired by God, not even by its “sons”, about whom the book of Enoch says imparted knowledge to humankind.
If extra-terrestrial beings had come to the earth, it doesn’t matter how we name them, angels or otherwise, they weren’t spiritual beings but material ones. They mixed with “daughters of men” and it is possible that a race of giants would have been generated. Probably the extension of that mixture was not as important as the book of Genesis presents it, and the end of the giants could have been determined by environmental motives. The following is a very brief synthesis of the theory of the ancient aliens:
“As first came to Earth many millennia ago. They were beings whose biology was similar to modern humans. They created modern mankind by mixing their genetic makeup with that of sub-humans. The purpose of mankind was to serve the AAs, principally by providing food and mining and construction labor. The AAs did not allow humans to view them – only their symbols (idols), suggesting that their appearance was frightening; however humans were occasionally permitted to see their emissaries, e.g. “geniuses” and “angels”. They also would not allow humans near them, except priests who had cleansed and covered themselves and spread a germicide, suggesting their susceptibility to earthly diseases.”
What explanation can be found for the presence of the text in Genesis chapter 2, in which are described the valuable materials of the Garden of Eden? The only reasonable explanation is that some extra-terrestrial beings in the past were ones interested in some material elements found on Earth and they used human force in order to extract it. This could be seen as bearing a very loose connection with possible ancient civilisations visiting the earth.
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Genesis chapter 6; 1-4 can be understood as having a certain relation to a possible reality. This is not proof that the book is inspired by God but it is a hint that the book of Genesis is a collection of texts influenced by many sources. Some of those sources are the stories about the possible encounters between ancient civilizations and humankind.
The Watchers in the book of Enoch did a similar thing as Satan did in Genesis chapter 3. They taught humankind different professions and the knowledge they provided would have been considered to be the root of all evil. Knowledge gives power and the power of men was seen as a threat for God. Knowledge would have been perceived as a threat only by the representatives of an extra-terrestrial civilization, but not by God who is eternal and Almighty.
Is it possible that some ancient astronauts created humankind from inferior beings through genetic engineering in order to use them for work, and after a while the latter emancipated and became independent? God in the Bible is different from the “sons of God” and He wasn’t happy when His “sons” offered knowledge to humankind. The point is that an extra-terrestrial civilization is something different and cannot be confounded with God. The existence of extra-terrestrial civilizations as a source of inspiration for the book of Genesis is only a speculation which theoretically isn’t impossible, but God in the book of Genesis is seen as the Creator not only of humankind but also of the universe. No extra-terrestrial civilization could have created the universe if it dwells in it. At the same time, there are many reasons to believe that God didn’t create the universe in the way described by the book of Genesis.
Starting with Adam and Eve, humankind wanted to be knowledgeable like God. The book of Genesis tells us that some otherworldly forces were favourable of humankind acquiring knowledge and gave it to them, but God saw this thirst for knowledge as being sinful, the expression of disobedience. God in the book of Genesis didn’t want to share knowledge with mankind and punished severely whoever helped humankind to get knowledge. Such a punishment would have been given to the “sons of God” who allegedly had been destroyed by the Flood.
The knowledge was a way of emancipating from God’s authority. That is a constant idea in the book of Genesis.
The same idea entered the Judeo-Christian tradition and followed an insidious path which generated mistrust in science during a long period of time. The stories of creation from the book of Genesis contain in them the supposition that human knowledge is dangerous and it isn’t seen as favourable by God but this, in my opinion is very false. Humankind’s knowledge opens the gates for the understanding of God because He is also Knowledge and every step in the direction of knowledge is a path toward Him.
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