Thursday, November 12, 2020

Earliest View

 

Weren’t the Earliest Views of “Sons of God” Almost Always Leaning to Angels?

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, November 12, 2020

It is often pointed out that the earliest records about the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 by the Jews  were viewed as angels (predominantly but not exclusively). The earliest we have is about 250-200 B.C. as shown in the deviations in the LXX Jewish translation from Hebrew into Greek.  

Nevertheless, Jews writing in the Apocrypha, though not Scripture, also yielded “sons of God” as people/men from 400 B.C. to the opening pages of Matthew. So even the earliest Jewish thought on this was actually split.  

One thing needs to be noted up front. All the recorded views of the “sons of God” originated long after the original events took place by nearly 1500 years. So if one were to argue that the true account is the one view that showed up slightly earlier than another, this would be fallacious.  Consider:

The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17  NKJV

Think of it this way: we are disconnected from Christ’s earthly ministry by about 2,000 years. Imagine if someone today published that Jesus had orange ears and began promoting that idea. And a few others buy into it too. Since no one else commented on His ears up to this point and this would essentially be the first reference, does this mean this is the truth—that Jesus had orange ears? By no means. 

The earliest we have been able to determine anyone’s viewpoint on the Genesis “sons of God” was with some copies of the LXX that was originally translated about 200-250 B.C. This is about 2,250 years after the Flood (where the original issue of the “sons of God” was well before the Flood). Even from Moses's record of it in Genesis, it is still very disconnected. 

Also, consider that it has been well over 1400 years since Moses penned these words in Genesis 6 as well. To make things worse, the Jews, in their history had walked away from the Lord on numerous occasions and in one grossly negligent instance, even had to find a copy of the Scriptures (in 2 Kings 22:8-13) because no one knew God’s Word anymore! Furthermore, the Jews had been conquered and put into captivity and the Old Temple had been destroyed with many precious documents and items that were carried away.

For the Lord was not pleased with the Jews for quite some time now. And the Lord sent them no prophet for 400 years and the LXX translation occurred in the midst of this time and therefore, was not overseen by a prophet. Don’t get me wrong, the LXX is very useful, but not inerrant and not without its problems. 

The Jews, if they would have understood the Old Testament better, should have been expecting Jesus Christ—for the whole Old Testament points to Him. But due to many errant theologies among the Jews of that day, be it Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or others, most missed Jesus Christ when He stood amongst them and had it preached by apostles.

So how good has the Jewish record and transmission of events, theology, people, and angels been in the translation of the LXX and their traditions? It is not the best. Even Jesus disputed with them over their traditions and defended the Word of God that had been distorted by traditions (Matthew 15:1-6, Mark 7:1-13). But due to the translation of “sons” as angels in the LXX in some copies, this influenced many reading Greek to follow suit with this poor translation, simply because they didn’t know better.

But take note that some copies of the LXX did retain “sons of God”, not “angels of God.” It is possible that the original retained the “sons of God” and later this change was made due to the fallen angel theology during copying. The earliest copies we have of the LXX is around the 4th century A.D. So somewhere in these 600 years or so of Greek copies of the LXX, we find that some had the change of “sons” to “angels” or vice versa where someone had corrected it in accordance with the Hebrew text.   

So why did some Jews feel the need to change “sons” to “angels”? Though we may never know for certain, one possible reason is that a “son” carries the weight of the father. For example, when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Jews wanted to stone Him for claiming equality with God (e.g., John 10:29-39).

A “son” of God would be near blasphemy to many Jews during this intertestamental period (because of some deviant theology).  So rendering “sons” as metaphorical for “angels” was more acceptable in their theology. If this were the case, why didn’t the LXX do this with the “sons of God” in Job? This would become a Jewish theology that is elevated in stature to a position above the plain meaning of the Word of God.

Why the shift from fallen angels? 

Beginning about A.D 400, we find a major shift in theology from the fallen angels view to fallen men views? This view persisted through the Reformation and until modern times. But why?  

Consider that many LXX copies translated “sons” as “angels” in Genesis 6:4 from about 200 B.C. until about A.D. 400. So the average reader, without consulting the Hebrew text, would have naturally thought this to be angels because the common trade language that dominated the area was Greek during much of this time. 

However, Koine Greek was rapidly becoming obsolete by about A.D. 400. Most readers were already utilizing translations that were in Latin, the common vulgar tongue (pre-Latin Vulgate translations) throughout the Roman Empire. But there existed no standardized translation yet. Then Jerome, the famous scholar, was commissioned to translate the Bible into Latin for an official translation. 

Jerome began translating the Bible from original language texts but still consulting translations like the LXX (OT: Hebrew and some Aramaic and NT: Koine Greek) into Latin. This was completed about A.D. 400. In it, Jerome translated the “sons” properly as “sons”, instead of as “angels” in Genesis 6:4. 

So the translational bias was now removed. Naturally, people were not reading into the text that angels bred with women anymore. And the context of godly men given in the lineage immediately prior to Genesis 6 was now read naturally. 

Few Christians felt the need to take the Jewish myth that had persisted for so long. Hence, the fallen angel view died a quick death with a more accurate translation. Even influential theologians of the time (e.g., Augustine) began promoting the view that “sons of God” were just as they were in most of the Scripture, godly men. 

But this a lesson to learn. An errant theology, imposed on Scripture in translation can cause false belief to linger for a long time if not checked. The error of the firmament has persisted much longer because Jerome also took the Greek view of the heavens being solid and put it into the Latin Vulgate (firmamentum) which was the dominant translation that influenced early English translations which made the same error (firmament).  Only in recent times have people really gone back to the Hebrew for raqia to arrive at expanse, which deviates from the Greek view of the heavens to a better understanding of the sky.   

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Why Do People Believe "Sons of God" Mean "Godly Men"?

 

Why do some people think “sons of God” mean humans (godly men)?

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, November 1, 2020

Obviously, not everyone agrees with the arguments presented for “angels” being the proper interpretation of “sons of God”. So, what is the biblical case for interpreting “sons of God” as humans or specifically godly men

What about other instances of “sons of God” in the Bible? 

Did you know that the Bible talks extensively about the “sons of God”—not just the passages in Job? Why are so many of these passages ignored? 

If there was a verse or phrase within a verse that was difficult to understand, the place to go was elsewhere in Scripture—including the New Testament. The whole counsel of Scripture should not be ignored. Use clear Scriptures to interpret unclear Scriptures. That should settle the issue. 

If one wants to know how to interpret “sons of God”, then look to the whole of Scripture to gather a better understanding. In doing this, we are not limiting an interpretation to one metaphorical use in Job 38 while ignoring other passages.  

Table of Scriptures to interpret “sons of God” in Genesis 6 

 

Sons of God used

Style

Meaning

1

Exodus 4:22-23 (God’s son Israel)

Historical Narrative

Godly men (Israelites)

2

Deuteronomy 14:1 (the children of the LORD your God)[1]

Historical Narrative

Godly men (Israelites)

3

Job 1:6[2] (sons of God)

Historical Narrative

Disputed (godly men, or godly angels)

4

Job 2:1[3] (sons of God)

Historical Narrative

Disputed (godly men, or godly angels)

5

Job 38:7[4] (sons of God)

Poetic/Metaphorical

Godly angels, luminaries

6

Psalm 2:7 (My Son)

Poetic/Metaphorical

Kingly men of Israel; prophetic of Christ per Acts 13:33

7

Psalms 82:6 (sons/children of the Most High)[5]

Poetic/Metaphorical

Godly men (Israelites)

8

Hosea 1:10 (sons of the Living God)[6]

Prophetic

Godly men (Israelites)

9

Hosea 11:1 (God’s son)

Prophetic

Godly men (Israelites)

10

Luke 3:38 (son of God)[7]

Historical Narrative

Godly man/Adam (who afterward sinned)[8]

11

Luke 6:35 (sons of the Most High)[9]

Historical Narrative

Godly men

 

Luke 20:36 (sons of God/sons of the resurrection)

Historical Narrative

Godly men

12

Matthew 5:9[10] (sons of God)

Teaching Sermon by Christ

Godly men (peacemakers)

13

Matthew 5:45 (sons of your Father in heaven)

Teaching Sermon by Christ

Godly men

14

Romans 8:14[11]

Epistle/Teaching

Godly men (those led by the Spirit)

15

Romans 8:19[12]

Epistle/Teaching

Godly men (those who are saved)

16

Galatians 3:26[13]

Epistle/Teaching

Godly men (those who are saved)

17

Only begotten Son of God (Numerous)

Gospels, Epistles

Fully man and Fully God—Jesus Christ


To argue that “sons of the Most High”, “children (Hebrew:  ben or bene—“sons”) of the LORD your God”, “sons of the Living God”, etc. should be excluded for discussion would be to argue that God is referring to someone other than the true God (e.g., a false god). But they clearly refer to the true God and should be used.  

Children of God

Furthermore, in the New Testament, there are multiple uses of “children of God” and they all refer to godly men/mankind.[14]  In one case, there is the use of “children of the devil” (1 John 3:10) and even these are in reference to human too, but ungodly ones! See the list[15] (NKJV): 

·         John 1:12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

·         John 11:52  and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

·         Romans 8:16  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

·         Romans 8:21  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

·         Romans 9:8  That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

·         Philippians 2:15  that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

·         1 John 3:1  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

·         1 John 3:2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

·         1 John 3:10  In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

·         1 John 5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 

What can we learn from all of this? 

1.      Nowhere does “sons of God” [or varieties of it] refer to the ungodly. So why interpret sons of God in Genesis 6 as ungodly [angels]?2.       The vast majority are in reference to godly men, so the rendering of Genesis 6’s “sons of God” should not ignore godly men. 

3.      The only one that definitely means “angels” is based on a passage that interprets it as angels in a poetic/metaphorical context. Why take a metaphorical meaning of a phrase and use it to interpret a passage that is historical narrative?

4.      One should not miss that one man in the Old Testament, who lived prior to Genesis 6, was directly called a “son of God” (not to be misconstrued as the only begotten Son of God), and he happen to be a man and the father of us all—Adam (Luke 3:38). 

5.      The New Testament passages exclusively use “sons of God” as godly people, so this should settle the issue. The New Testament is not “off limits” regarding this issue of theology in the Old Testament. Imagine if someone said Jesus and Peter’s comments about the Flood in Noah’s day were “off limits” when discussing Genesis 6-8 because they used the Greek word (kataklusmos), and not the Hebrew word (mabbuwl)? This would be fallacious. 

What else can we learn about the “sons and children of God”? 

Reading the context of who has the right to be called “sons of God” are those who are led by the Spirit, receive and are faithful to Christ, practices righteousness, love God and keep His commandments, loving your enemies, and doing good, peacemakers, etc. 

For an obvious reason, rebellious fallen angels who join the ranks to fight against God, doing evil, and so on are not the marks of one who can be counted among the “sons of God”. But godly men do fit these requirements and many godly men have fallen from their positions of good grace due to sin throughout their lives (e.g., Saul, Solomon, and many others)—hence the fallen man position.  

Consider that Adam was called a “son of God” in Luke. This connects that “sons of God” are those godly men continuing to call upon the name of the Lord continuing with Seth (Genesis 4:26). Interestingly, this is the immediate context preceding Genesis 6. No doubt this line had godly men—Enoch, for example, walked with God and He took Enoch without death (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5). 

Few would dispute that Lamech (Noah’s father) and Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather) were godly. Methuselah was raised by extremely godly father Enoch after all. But were Lamech’s and Methuselah’s wives godly? I ask this question sincerely—as both Lamech and Methuselah had children and other descendants that died in the Flood (e.g., Genesis 5:26 and Genesis 5:30) that were not among the eight on the Ark unless three of them were Shem, Ham, or Japheth’s wives. Were these pre-Flood patriarch’s wives among the “daughters of men”—ungodly wives who led most of their children astray to fall from God’s grace and be judged in the Flood? It is something to ponder indeed. 

There are many cases in Scripture where children “of men” (e.g., similar to “daughters of men”) were seen as ungodly. Passages such as 1 Samuel 26:19, Psalm 14:1-2, Psalm 89:47-48, and Lamentations 3:31-35 do not give a good light to the title of one being the “children of men”, so why assume “daughters of men” are not ungodly in Genesis 6?  

I find it fascinating that the fallen angels position, that I was once part of, held that the title “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were those who were ungodly and the “daughters of men” were the godly! This is back-to-front when looking consistently at the rest of Scripture. 


[1] "You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead.

[2] Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

[3] Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

[4] When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

[5] I said, "You are gods, And all of you are children (“sons”) of the Most High.

[6] "Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’

[7] the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

[8] Yes Adam sinned, but who hasn’t. It should be safe to say Adam was saved, he only had one sin on record and we knew the prophecy to look forward to Christ (seed of a woman), Eve clearly knew it and looked forward to it. The knowledge of God was clearly passed along from Adam to Seth (Genesis 4:25) to people like Enoch (Genesis 5:24). The Lord did offer a sacrifice to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21).

[9] "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.

[10] Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

[11] For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

[12] For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

[13] For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

[15] There is one use of “children of God” in the apocryphal book of Wisdom (verse 5:5) as well. 

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