Genesis 6 and the “Sons of God”: A Refutation of Ken Temple Using the Bible and the “Example of the Church”
Originally posted on the Quran and Bible Blog
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
I contended that these “sons of God” (bene Elohim) are fallen angels, as the context indicates, and since the only other time the Hebrew phrase is used (Job 1) also refers to angels, then they really must be angels.
However, Temple claimed otherwise. According to his interpretation, the “sons of God” were simply human beings. This interpretation is popular among many modern Christians, but it was not the mainstream view in early Christianity. When I stated that the “church fathers” (e.g., Justin Martyr) also believed that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were angels who copulated with humans, Temple was skeptical. And so, I provided direct quotes from the “fathers” to demonstrate the “example of the church”. And like other Christians who use the fathers when they suit them but throw them under the bus when they don’t, Temple decided that he knew better and that the fathers were wrong. Here are the relevant quotes from some of the church fathers:
Justin Martyr, Second Apology, Chapter 5 –
CHAPTER V — HOW THE ANGELS TRANSGRESSED.
“But if this idea take possession of some one that if we acknowledge God as our helper, we should not, as we say, be oppressed and persecuted by the wicked; this, too, I will solve. God, when He had made the whole world, and subjected things earthly to man, and arranged the heavenly elements for the increase of fruits and rotation of the seasons, and appointed this divine law–for these things also He evidently made for man–committed the care of men and of all things under heaven to angels whom He appointed over them. But the angels transgressed this appointment. and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness.”
Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching –
“And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness,  in that they brought them the virtues of roots and herbs, dyeing in colors and cosmetics, the discovery of rare substances, love-potions, aversions, amours, concupiscence, constraints of love, spells of bewitchment, and all sorcery and idolatry hateful to God; by the entry of which things into the world evil extended and spread, while righteousness was diminished and enfeebled.”
Tertullian, Apology, Chapter 22:
“And we affirm indeed the existence of certain spiritual essences; nor is their name unfamiliar. The philosophers acknowledge there are demons; Socrates himself waiting on a demon’s will. Why not? since it is said an evil spirit attached itself specially to him even from his childhood–turning his mind no doubt from what was good. The poets are all acquainted with demons too; even the ignorant common people make frequent use of them in cursing. In fact, they call upon Satan, the demon-chief, in their execrations, as though from some instinctive soul-knowledge of him. Plato also admits the existence of angels. The dealers in magic, no less, come forward as witnesses to the existence of both kinds of spirits. We are instructed, moreover, by our sacred books how from certain angels, who fell of their own flee-will, there sprang a more wicked demon-brood, condemned of God along with the authors of their race, and that chief we have referred to. It will for the present be enough, however, that some account is given of their work. Their great business is the ruin of mankind. So, from the very first, spiritual wickedness sought our destruction.”
Eusebius, Preparatio Evangelica, Book 5:
“But in fact it is. manifest to all that he who practises the things that are dear to the wicked can never be a friend of the good. So then it was not to gods, nor yet to good daemons, but only to the wicked, that those of whom I have spoken paid worship.
And this argument is still further confirmed by Plutarch, in the passage where he says that the mythical narratives told as concerning gods are certain tales about daemons, and the deeds of Giants and Titans celebrated in song among the Greeks are also stories about daemons, intended to suggest a new phase of thought.
Of this kind then perhaps were the statements in the Sacred Scripture concerning the giants before the Mood, and those concerning their progenitors, of whom it is said, ‘And when the angels of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, they took unto them wives of all that they chose,’ and of these were born ‘the giants the men of renown which were of old.’
For one might say that these daemons are those giants, and that their spirits have been deified by the subsequent generations of men, and that their battles, and their quarrels among themselves, and their wars are the subjects of these legends that are told as of gods. Plutarch indeed, in the discourse which he composed On Isis and the gods of the Egyptians, speaks as follows word for word.”
So, it’s clearly a landslide.
Temple’s main argument that the “sons of God” were human beings and not angels is based on Mark 12:25, Matthew 22:30, and Luke 20:34-36:
Mark – “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
Matthew – “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
Luke – “Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels.”
But this appeal does not refute the angel argument for four reasons:
- The passages refer to life in heaven, not on earth. The latter is clearly the context of Genesis 6 (“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth…”)
- Notice that in Luke’s version, there is the addition of the phrase “and they can no longer die”, followed by the phrase “for they are like the angels”. Therefore, according to Luke, it seems the reference to angels was to compare them to the people who would go to heaven and never die. It is not a reference to their inability to procreate in heaven.
- None of the passages talk about sexual intercourse. They only mention “marriage”. Moreover, they do not state that marriage is impossible in heaven, only that it will not be done.
- According to Genesis 2, Adam and Eve were literally married while they were in the Garden of Eden:
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
So, the appeal to the New Testament falls apart.
In addition, there is no doubt that angels were able to do many things that humans could do, such as eating. There are numerous examples of this from the Tanakh:
“He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree” (Genesis 18:8).
“But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate” (Genesis 19:3).
“Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat” (Psalm 78:23-25).
Thus, angels can eat, even in heaven! So why can they not have other physical pleasures there?
We can conclude based on the textual evidence from the Bible and the views of the early Church fathers that there is no good reason to discount the view that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were really angels. These angels copulated with human women, who gave birth to powerful men who became renowned as the “heroes of old”. For Christians like Temple, this interpretation is embarrassing, so they try very hard to deny it. This reflects poorly on their credibility and honesty and proves how far they will go to misquote their own Bible when it becomes inconvenient for them.
And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!
The main impetus for this discussion was Temple’s mockery of the hadith about Satan urinating in the ears of a man who does not get up for the Fajr prayer. Temple claimed that this hadith is silly because claims that “Satan is like a human being and can urinate or fart”. Perhaps someone should point out to Temple that he is not an expert on Satan’s anatomy!
 For other “examples of the church” and how some Christians throw it under the bus when it is inconvenient or embarrassing to agree with it, see the following:
 Genesis 2:24-25.
 In any case, as demonstrated, the New Testament passages referred to there being no marriage in heaven, and do not refute angel argument for Genesis 6, since the angel-human copulation would have been on earth.