November 14, 2011

Hard Sayings XXVI: The Nephilim: Mighty Men of Renown

Cadmus Sowing the Dragon's Teeth
Oil on Canvas-Maxfield Parrish-1908

The Nephilim. Great men? Giants? Aliens? Angelic & human offspring???

I have often said that I do not purposely do things to make people angry when it comes to the truth of the Bible. I merely go were the text takes me and draw the most accurate conclusions I can from the guidance of the Holy Spirit and doing the best exegesis and research I can. So, although you may disagree with the following assessment, I am solely presenting what I found.

In Men's Bible studies, Sunday classes and in casual conversation I have often been asked if I believe there were giants or physically imposing human (or not so human) beings in Genesis as outlined below:

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. Genesis 6:4 (ESV)

This question has been responsible for derailing more than one bible study into a side argument that Satan laughed all the way from his hell-bound abode about. It is these types of questions that take us off the focus of the Gospel spiritually and puts us in places that end in petty offshot arguments of non-salvational nuances that do nothing but divide the body. I pray this sets things straight for a few people after reading it.

Buckle up, this is going to be tough read but it will have a decent payoff folks.

The text in Genesis 6:4 above is not entirely clear on what the "sons of God" are. To speculate is to read things into the text that are not there with clarity. That is called eisegesis and it is unbiblical and frankly, satanic. First, Nephilim in Hebrew doesn’t necessarily translate cleanly to “giant” it means more plainly "brute", "bully" or "tyrant". It is also often stated by many without support from the Scripture that the “sons of God” were angels. The claim is that everywhere else this term is used in Scripture it refers to spiritual beings. To conclude the same here is a fallacy of composition and is not a real good idea if someone wants the truth of proper interpretation. I have always viewed this claim as dubious at best based on circumstantial evidence. It is then concluded that the offspring of the union between human women and these “sons of God” were "mighty men of renown".

I have been told, based in other's speculation, that the “men of renown” could’ve been men of great social stature not physical stature…like Lords or Kings. For a long time I concurred with this assessment thinking that even if angels could possess a human being it would only be the possession of a spiritual being with a man and the offspring would still be purely human. To me it just seemed too far-fetched to believe spiritual beings could mate with human women and produce offspring.

Enter my recent study of the Greek in Jude. After studying the Greek in Jude (because it’s a short book like Philemon) I need to alter my view on this. Specifically I am talking about Jude 6-7

“And 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; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 6-7

In verse 6, it is stated that the angels which sinned or “did not keep to their own domain are reserved for judgment". In verse 7 it says that Sodom, Gomorrah who indulged in sexual immorality were judged. The words, "just as," or “ὡς” connect these two statement (clauses), it shows (tentatively) that the angels and the cities are the same when it comes to being judged for the stated perpetrated sins. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is “gross immorality” and “went after strange flesh" a sexual fornication or sexual abnormality of some sort. Interestingly, verse 6 does not specify the particular kind of sin of which angels were guilty.

The issue arises with the comma or break in the phrase right before "as" Sodom, “just as” Sodom or "ὡς".

It shouldn’t be there.

The original Greek didn’t originally have punctuation, and this punctuation seems sadly misplaced in many modern English translations. Because of where it is placed in most English translations it inadvertently links it solely with the clause that contains “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them”. It should also be linked to the previous malformed clause in English that contains angels because of the “just as” or "ὡς" because it is linked in the Greek (Textus Receptus). Due to the comma (or worse, a semicolon) in English it appears to link the gross immorality with Sodom, Gomorrah and associated cities more than it does to the angels. The word/phrase "as / just as / ὡς " is, however, an adverbial one, and the rules of English and Greek grammar require that it not only be associated with the noun or "cities," but also with the verb (phrase) "having given themselves over and gone after strange flesh

In the Greek text the words: Sodoma/ Σόδομα, Gomorraha/ Γόμορρα and "cities/πόλεις/poleis or polis" (as in metro[polis]) are in the subjects of the sentence or the nominative case.

The words, "giving themselves over to fornication" and "going after," are aorist participles in the nominative plural in opposition with the words "Sodom," "Gomorrah," and "the cities." The phrase "in similar/like manner" is in the accusative case. The words, "in similar/like manner," are associated grammatically, not with the words Sodom, Gomorrah and cities (nominative), but rather with the verb phrase or participles "giving themselves over" and "going after strange flesh

If the Greek words are verbally inspired by God (which I believe they are) that inspiration extends to the grammar and syntax associated with the words as they were written. The correct understanding of the sentences shown here are dependent upon the grammatical constructions used. Punctuation on the other hand is not inspired but later added by non-inspired translators centuries later.

So what’s really going on here? Why the grammar and syntax lesson?

These “cities” gave themselves over to sexual immorality in like manner to what? Angels people!

This is as clear a statement as one will ever get about angels associated to fornication or sexual immorality with humans outside of Genesis 6. Although I would not base a doctrine off of this statement I believe there is something going on here that at least forces me, or warrants that I at least maintain a doubt of what is or isn’t possible in Genesis 6:4. If I completely rule out the possibility of angels getting involved "romantically" with human women, I now have to ignore this entire passage in Jude. Conversely, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells me that, “...all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, rebuking…etc…

I could do another word study on the words “strange flesh” also but it will suffice to say that the word is "ἑτέρας/heteros" or “different” and "σαρκὸς/sarkos" or "flesh/ physical", which is to say angels are spiritual beings and not physical beings like human women. The implication in the text is clear, angels transcended or more specifically transgressed a limit between spirit and flesh. How? Who knows? Life and this world in general are stranger than fiction sometimes, I speak from experience. If we solely rely on human reason we would never be able to grasp the other concepts at the core of our faith because they require us to take a step out in faith. Some things defy a naturalist explanation no matter how much liberal theologians and science wants us to believe otherwise. Sometimes there is more than meets the eye in this life. We have the life beyond in eternity that is clearly beyond us right now and is clearly more than meets our eye...yet we believe because of the Bible. The things like a God that is One and three persons: The Trinity. Things like the fact that our God is limitless in power, attributes, etc...

I personally will no longer say that it is impossible for angels to have fornicated with humans. The text in Jude makes me think otherwise. Yes, I believe there is something really odd or supernatural going on in Genesis 6 when it comes to the Nephilim. I also believe it is why we no longer see them as they were essentially an eyesore and abomination to God and need to be judged and removed…therefore the flood. A flood ironically, that is buried within the creation/origin accounts of nearly all cultures all over the world. The flood, a bottoms-up fact through most all cultures, not a top down theory from modern naturalists. A fact that points to a commonality of source, not a consensus of opinion.

I suppose that the "sons of God" could've just been regular men with a reputation that preceeded them but having read through Jude quite a few times I must admit I lean towards the possibility that there is more there...much more.

In the end, I believe what the Bible tells us about God, about the Creation and what it tells us about ourselves. I also believe that things are a lot stranger than many will acknowledge because we now live in a culture that is naturalistically based and anti-supernaturally biased. If we can't see it, it doesn't exist. If we are truly honest we must admit that we do not have all the answers about the world and about life. If we do not admit this we just become puffed up with knowledge and become intellectually arrogant bubbleheads (1 Corinthians). I have now allowed for this study to begin to change my views. As I study the Bible I am beginning to realize just how little I really do know in this life and that makes me realize just how dependent I am on Jesus Christ. Smart men err on the side of caution and caution tells me to acknowledge I do not know everything. Therefore I cling to the Savior who does. This helps me take the onus of owning the truth off of myself and placing it on God…and that’s exactly where it should be.

I have presented you with my research…you make your own decision.

Oh, by the way. The painting from Maxfield Parrish is intentional by me. I have always thought Cadmus in this painting looks like a giant due to Parrish's use of colors and layering perspective. In addition to this, anyone that knows Greek mythology knows the story of  Cadmus and Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece. The story is a metaphor. The mythological legend of Cadmus and Jason has given rise to the phrase "to sow dragon's teeth." This is used to refer to doing something that has the effect of fomenting disputes, rather akin to the law of unintended consequences, which is exactly what happens when the Nephilim is brought up by uninformed Christians and subsequently leads to senseless arguments that do nothing to bring the Body of Christ together. We as Christians must recognize when we are deliberately allowing the world to mess with us and our relationships with the brethren fighting over dumb stuff that sidetracks us in non-salvational distractions. We need to clearly see when Satan is sowing Dragon's teeth. Regardless of what I have determined here to my satisfaction, it is not a salvational issue and therefore I do not feel the need to argue over it. You are free to believe what you want here and we can still get along as brothers and sisters. God bless you all!

1 comment:

Child of God said...

I agree with you and I believe the Nephilim are around today, or will be around during the tribulation. Here is a blog post you might enjoy reading...

Elizabeth has some fantastic posts on this topic.


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