Many interpreters see the sons of God as angels who had fallen from their heavenly estate. They were enticed by the women on the earth, cohabited with them, and produced offspring (half-human, half-angels). This offspring, the Nephilim, corrupted the earth, causing God to send a Flood to wipe everyone out except Noah's family-those who had not been tainted by the angelic sin.
The view that the sons of God were angels is very ancient. In the first century A.D., Flavius Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews
(1:3:1) held the position that angels co-habited with women. Later authors such as Philo of Alexandria (early first century A.D.) also held this position as did many rabbinical authorities. The Genesis Apocryphon
, among the Dead Sea Scrolls, states this angelic interpretation.
Furthermore, many Christian interpreters also took this position. These include: Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Ambrose.
Fallen Out Of Favor
The angelic view fell into disrepute among Christian interpreters from the fourth to the eighteenth century. Saint Augustine's rejection of the angel interpretation (De Civitate Dei
15, written between A.D. 413-426, had enormous influence. Those who rejected the supernatural angelic reading did so because of theological objections that arose to angels cohabiting with humans.
Different Groups Embracing It
In recent times the angelic view has been embraced by those who believe the Genesis account is mythical, as well as Bible- believing scholars who reject the mythological view of Genesis. Each group holds this view for different reasons.
The liberal scholars, who reject the historicity of the Bible in many of its parts, feel the angelic interpretation in Genesis 6
is an example of the myths that were common among people at that time.
The Bible-believers who hold to the angelic view do so because they feel it best fits all the evidence of Scripture. They strongly reject the idea that any part of Scripture is mythological. Furthermore many of them believe that the later myths that arose concerning angels and women producing monstrous offspring may have been derived from the actual occurrence as recorded in Genesis.
Though the angelic interpretation of Genesis 6
was an ancient view, it was not the only view in antiquity. Wayne Grudem explains:
This understanding of Genesis 6 [the angel view] is frequent in extra-biblical literature, being attested in at least the following nine texts: Josephus, Ant. 1:73; Philo, On the Giants 6; Q. Gen. 1:92; CD 2:18; 1 Enoch 6:2,6; 106. 13-14; Jubilees 5:1; 10:1-6; 2 Baruch 56:12-15.
However, it is often not appreciated that such an interpretation of Genesis 6 is far from uniform in Jewish tradition. The following list shows nine other texts where non-angelic interpretations are held:
While Philo himself calls these 'sons of God' angels in one place, he later called them 'good and excellent men' Q. Gen. 1.92). Moreover the Targums and the Rabbinic literature are unanimous in viewing the 'sons of God' as human beings. Targum Onkelos on Genesis 6:2 and 4 reads 'sons of princes' (or great men, and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan has the same. Targum Neofiti has 'sons of the Judges' in both verses.
Tosefta, Sotah 3: 9a interprets 'sons of God' as men of the generation of the flood. In the Midrash Rabbah, they are understood as 'sons of judges' and as leaders (Gen. R. 26.5 on Gn. 6:2, quoting Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai, c. AD 140), or as the generation of men at the time of the flood. Symmachus translates Genesis 6:2 as 'the sons of the rulers.'
Although this material is admittedly somewhat later than 1 Enoch and Jubilees, which are both to be dated in the second century BC, the citations from Philo and the Targums are certainly not irrelevant for New Testament exegesis-indeed, the Rabbinic material generally represents a stream of Jewish tradition which is certainly relevant as a background for New Testament studies. And the citations in this second group are diverse and frequent enough to give strong indication of the existence of a 'non-angelic' view of the 'sons of God' in Judaism, especially more orthodox Judaism, before or during the time of the New Testament (Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, IVP, 1988, pp 211,212).
Therefore the angel view was not the only position held in the ancient world.
There is also the testimony from another ancient source. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament begun around 250 B.C., gives some support to the angelic view. Some of the manuscripts containing Genesis 6:2
read angels of God rather than sons of God.
Only one manuscript (Codex Alexandrinus
) reads angels of God. The critical editions of the Septuagint (as well as two other ancient Greek translations) read sons of God not angels of God in Genesis 6:2
. Therefore one cannot appeal to the Septuagint to support the idea of angels.
A third ancient source that testifies to this view are the apocryphal books (books written during the biblical period but not accepted as Scriptural). 1 Enoch
(written about 200 B.C) in chapters 6 and 7 says that 200 angels lusted after human women and produced giants.
The Book of Jubilees
, dated 100 B.C., speaks of angels coming to earth to help humankind. Jubilees reports that these angels became consumed with lust and produced a race of giants (7:21-25).
The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs
, 2 Enoch
18, and 2 Baruch
56 also testify that Genesis 6
speaks of angels being punished for their sin.
How much credence do we give any of the apocryphal books? Though they are ancient interpretations they not on the same level as inspired Scripture. As we have already noted, the angel view was not the only one held in antiquity. These apocryphal books represent only one interpretation.
As far as the biblical evidence is concerned, the interpretation of the sons of God meaning angels is the natural reading of the text. There is a direct antithesis between sons of God
and daughters of men
. This argues for understanding the sons of God as non-human.
The view is not as obvious as some believe. Why didn't Moses say angels if he meant angels? There are fifteen references to angels in the Pentateuch and each time it refers to angels it calls them angels-never the sons of God. The only exception is Genesis 3:24
when he calls them cherubim. Therefore calling them angels here is anything but obvious. To the contrary, the angel view would seem more inconsistent in this context of Genesis where angels are never specifically mentioned.
5. Technical Phrase
The Hebrew phrase (bene ha'elohim
) translated sons of God (Genesis 6:2
) is a technical construction. When this phrase is used elsewhere in the Old Testament (Job 1:6
; Daniel 3:25
has the same expression in the singular) it always refers to angels. See also a similar phrase in Psalm 29:1
where the text obviously refers to angels. Likewise, in the rabbinic literature, the phrase always refers to angels, never to men. When, therefore, we find the expression without any explanatory addition, we should not attribute to it a meaning other than that which it
normally has in the Bible. Therefore, it's a reference to angels, not humans.
First, there are only two
places in the entire Old Testament where the exact phrase is used (Job 1:6
). In Job 38:7
the definite article Ha
is missing. Therefore to say that the term is used consistently
for angels is misleading since there are only two other verses in the entire Old Testament where the exact the phrase is used. The fact that these two places refer to angels is clear from the context, not
from the phrase itself.
Phrase Does Mean Humans
Furthermore, the Old Testament does contain references to the sons of God as being human beings.
In Hosea 2:1
we find the following description of the sons of Israel: You are the sons of the living God. Here the phrase sons of God definitely refers to humans, not angels.
reads You are the sons of the Lord your God. Again another reference of the sons of God to humans.
God also calls Israel His son. When Israel was a youth I loved him and out of Egypt I called My son (Hosea 11:1
The Lord, speaking of Israel says to the north, Bring My sons from afar.
The same idea, of God as the Father and Israel as His son, is found in Deuteronomy 32:5
They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His sons, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.
A similar phrase is found in Psalm 82:6
which reads, I said, You are gods, and all of your are sons of the Most High.
Parallel To Men
Furthermore, the idea of this phrase is closely paralleled in other Old Testament expressions which unmistakably refer to men. For example, Deuteronomy 14:1
says, You are the sons of the Lord your God. See also Psalm 82:6
; Hosea 1:10
; Exodus 4:22
, Deuteronomy 32:5
and Psalm 73:15
Consequently this Hebrew phrase is not a technical expression for angels.
The sons of God as referring to angels seems to be the most consistent interpretation of this phrase. For example, the words daughters of man in verse 2 should interpreted in the same sense from that which they have in verse 1 when it says man began to multiply and daughters were born. Obviously these are human beings. Since in 6:1 the human species as a whole is certainly referred to-to be consistent-verse 2 should also refer to human beings in general. Moreover, the expression sons of God is employed in antithesis to daughters of men, it is clear that the former pertain to beings outside the human sphere.
The contrast between sons of God and daughters of men do not have to be between human and non-human entities. Those who reject the angel view do not feel their interpretation is inconsistent.
The classification of the sons of God and daughters of men into two difference categories does not necessarily mean they are a human and non-human group. In other parts of the Old Testament similar expressions are used to mean men. For example, Judges 20:1
speaks of all the tribes of Israel assembling for war against the tribe of Benjamin. Therefore a distinction is made between the tribes of Israel and Benjamin. This, however does not exclude Benjamin from being classified as one of the tribes of Israel. Other Old Testament examples are Jeremiah 32:20
where the distinction is made between Israel and among men. Also Genesis 14:16
where we have the classification of Lot, women, and people.
The phrase that the sons of God took wives can also refer to fornication not just a marriage relationship (Judges 21:22
; Leviticus 20:17
). This indicates there did not have to be a formal marriage ceremony between the sons of God and the daughters of men.
The phrase took wives is a standing expression for marriage relationship with only these two exceptions. There is nothing in the context that would indicate these are other than real marriages. The sin was not fornication, the Hebrew makes this clear. Victor Hamilton writes:
The sons of God took wives. The Hebrew verb here, laqah, commonly describes marital transactions, including taking a wife for oneself (4:19;11:29; 12:19; 20:2,3; 25:1; 36:2,6; Exod 34:16) and taking a wife for another (Gen 21:21; 24:4, 40, 48). One might also take somebody else' wife (2 Sam. 11:4). Most of the former instances involve polygamy or potential adultery but not rape. When indiscriminate rape is described some verb like forced (2 Sam. 13:14) is necessary. Furthermore in the OT (Gen 36:2; 2 Sam 1:20, 24; Isa 3:16) benot (daughters) followed by a gentilic or place name normally designates those who are eligible for marriage, another indication that we are dealing here with marriage rather than rape (Victor Hamilton, Genesis, 1-17, Eerdmans, 1990, p. 265).
8.Not Mythological Story
We should not assume, if the text states that angels co-habited with women, then the story is of necessity mythological. Many non-Christian scholars who accept the angel view believe the account is mythological because of certain parallels in other ancient texts. In myths in Ugaritic, Sumerian, Hittite and Akkadian texts have statements where the gods are attracted to humans. However, this is a wrong inference. There are also parallels between the Genesis creation and Flood account with other ancient civilizations. We do not reject these biblical accounts because of weak parallels with other ancient writings. Neither should we do the same here.
While it is true that simplistic parallels from other cultures does not make the story mythological, it could explain why some ancient interpreters believed the angelic explanation.
9.Satan And Seed Of Woman
After Satan's judgment in the Garden of Eden we would expect him to attempt to defile the seed of the woman. One of the ways that he could thwart the plan of God is by mixing the seed of the woman with angelic creatures. This act, if completed, would thwart the promises of God.
Scripture records that Satan does make several attempts to defile the promised seed, but all other attempts are done by men, not angels. Also the Old Testament frequently warns against intermarriage of God's covenant people with those outside of His covenant (Exodus 34:16
). In addition, Scripture speaks of unwarranted marriages within their own people (Genesis 24
10.Judgment Of Flood
The reason for such an extraordinary judgment as the Flood can more easily be explained on the basis of angelic sin rather than human sin. Genesis 6:1-4
seems to be a prologue to the Flood. It also provides the reason as to why God resorted to such a drastic form of judgment. Why else would he totally destroy the human race except for eight people? Merely the intermarriage between humans, whether the godly line of Seth and the ungodly line of Cain, or between kings and common people, would not be sufficient reason for God to wipe out the entire race.
The context of Genesis 6
emphasizes the sin of humans, not angels as the reason for the Flood (verses 3-7,12,13). The sons of God were the ones who initiated this sin. Why weren't they mentioned in the judgment if they were angels? This leads us to conclude that only humankind was involved in the sin. Victor Hamilton writes on Genesis 6:6 :
Viewing the debacle man has fomented. God is grieved, even to the point of experiencing pain in his heart. . . his pain finds its source in the depth of the regret he experiences over fallen humanity, and in the fact that he must judge such fallenness.
11.The Nephilim (Giants)
Yahweh's decision is to eliminate the source of the problem-man . . .
The fact that God's judgment is directed at man would argue strongly for the fact that the culprits must be mortals. That being the case, this portion of the verse suggests that the ultimate root behind the sins of these sons of God was that they were flesh. Here is man at his weakest and most vulnerable (Victor Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, Eerdmans, 1990, p. 268).
The giants, the Nephilim
, that existed in those days (Genesis 6:4
) seem to have been the result of the union between the angels and humans. The fact that giants were mentioned points to some type of extraordinary explanation as to their existence. If the giants were not the offspring of these two groups then why is it injected here in the text? The best answer seems to be that the giants were the offspring of this union.
The fact that Nephilim
are mentioned in Scripture as existing after the Flood (Numbers 13:33
) does not imply they survived the Flood but rather that their name lived on of men of great stature.
or mighty ones were on earth both before and after the marriages-they did not arise after them.
In addition, Nephilim
does not necessarily mean giants. The word may be derived from the Hebrew naphal
meaning fall upon others (Joshua 11:7
; Job 1:15
; Jeremiah 46:16
). Therefore it could refer to those who attack others.
The word also could be derived from the Hebrew palah
which means extraordinary. This word is used to describe Antiochus (Daniel 8:24
) and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:26
It is also possible that the Nephilim
could be physical giants like Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4
Furthermore, Numbers 13:33
twice to describe sons of human parents not angels. The human father is Anak (Numbers 13:22
). If Nephilim
denotes offspring of human parents in Numbers 13:33
, then why not in Genesis 6:4
Furthermore, the Nephilim
, contrary to many opinions, were not the offspring of sons of God. Victor Hamilton writes:
In a parenthetical phrase we are told that the Nephilim were present during this scenario. But in what capacity? Are they simply contemporaries? Or are the Nephilim the result, the fruit of the union between the sons of God and the daughters of men? Or are the Nephilim the sons of God and therefore the perpetrators of the crime? Had v. 4. preceded v. 3, the likelihood would have increased that we are to understand the Nephilim as the offspring of this union. But the present order of the verses argues the contrary . . .
The translation we have offered understands the Nephilim to be distinct from the mighty men, who alone are the offspring of the union between the sons of God and the daughters of men. Thus we have set off the first part of the verse in parentheses. Such explanatory, perhaps pedantic, asides may be compared with similar phenomena in Deut 2:10-12; 2:20-23; 3:9; 3:11; 3:13b-14. Almost all modern versions of the Bible put these five passages in parentheses. Such frame-brakes supply extra information from the narrator (e.g. Deut 2:10, [The Elim formerly lived there . . .]). The expression as it is to this day occurs frequently (Deut
2:22; 3:11,14), and that is the equivalent of Gen 4:6 [sic]-and later on too. It makes much better grammatical sense to take the antecedent hemma (these) as the understood object of they fathered children rather than Nephilim (Victor Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, Eerdmans, 1990, p. 270).
Therefore it is more proper to understand the statement about the Nephilim as an explanatory parenthesis-it was during the time the Nephilim were on earth that the sons of God married the daughters of men. Thus neither the sons of God, nor the mighty men, had anything to do with the Nephilim. When it says, they were mighty men, the they refers back to the sons of God, not the Nephilim.
The angel view is not refuted by Christ's statement that angels do not marry (Matthew 22:30
; Mark 12:25
; Luke 20:35
). First, Jesus says angels in heaven cannot marry. This does not preclude the angels who came down to earth from marrying. Second, though angels are deathless and have no need to perpetuate their own species, the fallen angels may seek to produce another species through women. Third, angels are only spoken of in the masculine gender. They have no possibility of marriage among their own kind, but this does not necessarily preclude them from having a relationship with human beings.
Angelic cohabitation with earthly women does not seem to be a possibility. God created humans and animals after their kind (Genesis 1:27
) which means there are limits to the extent that they can reproduce. If angels are sexless, deathless creatures, without physical form, and had no need to perpetuate their kind, it does not seem likely that they could reproduce, even if they wanted. There is no reference in Scripture to fallen angels ever having a body.
Furthermore, grammatical gender is not the same as actual gender. Because they are spoken of in the masculine gender does not make them male. Grammatical gender is not the same as personal gender.
13. New Testament Evidence
Three New Testament passages seems to link angels with perversion in Noah's day:
By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water (1 Peter 3:19,20).
The question is, To whom did Christ preach after His resurrection? The spirits have been interpreted as fallen angels. The fallen angels are identified as those who were disobedient at the time of Noah. This connects them to Genesis 6:4
. Jesus went to the place where they were imprisoned and spoke to them. Christ did not announce salvation to these fallen angels-the Bible does not speak of angels having the gospel preached to them. More likely, Jesus proclaimed His victory over death and their eventual doom. Therefore, this verse connects the disobedient spirits with the judgment of the Flood.
A passage in 2 Peter seems to be more explicit of angels.
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly (2 Peter 2:4-6).
Who Were They?
Who were the angels who sinned? Though some commentators believe this refers to the original sin of the angels, there are many Bible students who see this passage refer to Genesis 6
and the reasons for the Flood.
Three examples of God's judgment are given in 2 Peter 2
(the angels who sinned, the Flood, cities of the plain [verse 6]). The three events to which they refer all come after one another in the early chapters of Genesis. Since angels are not previously mentioned in Genesis, the reference here seems to be to the angels who sinned before the Flood.
The place where these sinful angels are kept is translated hell in most English translations. The Greek word is tartaroo
- used only here in the New Testament. It speaks of a special place of confinement until the angel's final judgment.
These angels, whom Peter speaks of, are confined to gloomy dungeons or chains of darkness. It is possible that some of these fallen angels have been allowed to plague humankind as demons, while others have remained imprisoned. The account of the sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4
seems to be the reference Peter had in mind.
A third reference is found in Jude.
And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, 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 similar manner to these, having given themselves over to immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 6,7).
Jude, like Peter, gives past examples of the Lord's judgment. He speaks of angels who did not keep their proper domain but did something out of the ordinary. This seems to refer to the angels who sinned before the Flood. God has reserved for these angels a place in darkness where they are bound with chains awaiting the judgment day. It seems that some fallen angels are in bondage while others are unbound and active among humanity as demons.
Sodom Listed Next
Immediately after the reference to angels in this Jude passage is the example of Sodom and Gomorrah. This clearly refers to sexual sin. Jude links the angels' sin as similar to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two things stand out. These is masculine in Greek. According to the rules of Greek grammar, it must refer to something masculine, like angels. The Greek word for cities is in the feminine gender, therefore it cannot be a reference to it.
Though angels do not normally marry, Jude's comment may help explain the situation. He says they left their own habitation implying they occupied another habitation. This could mean intermarriage with women.
Angels do not normally marry, nor do they have physical bodies though at times they have assumed bodies and have appeared in bodily form. In Genesis 19
angelic messengers, in the form of men, visited Sodom. The men of the city, motivated by their and supposing messengers to be men, wanted to have them sexually. Therefore they went after different flesh. God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire and brimstone on these cities.
These three New Testament examples seem to link sinning angels with Genesis 6
These New Testament passages do not link perversion with angels. Many interpreters feel it is fanciful to assume that these verses refer to angels that sinned before the Flood. Victor Hamilton writes:
Do these two NT references to sinning, apostate angels support the view? At best the evidence from 2 Peter 2:4 is mute, for here the allusion is to angels (note that in the Greek text angelon angels, is anarthrous, i.e. , even angels) who sinned and thus were cast into hell. Peter does not elaborate on the nature of the angels' sin.
Jude 6 is another matter. He refers to angels who left their proper habitation and thus fell under divine judgment. V. 7 goes on to say, as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having in like manner with them [toutois] given themselves over to fornication and indulged in unnatural flesh. The crucial question is the identification of the antecedent of them (toutois). NIV circumvents the problem by simply ignoring them: In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves to immorality.
If we are to identify the antecedent of toutois as Sodom and Gomorrah, we need to read and punctuate as follows: as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities in like manner with them, gave themselves . . . We know that toutois (masc.) cannot refer back to poleis, cities (fem.), unless we have here a case of gender confusion.
If we identify the antecedent of toutois as the angels of v. 6, then Jude must be seeing in Genesis 6:1-4 not marriage, but rape and fornication, and titanic lust (Victor Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, Eerdmans, 1990, p. 272).
The idea of angels committing rape and fornication seems to be at odds with Genesis 6
between the two groups is what the Bible states that happened.
Furthermore, the angels who visited Sodom were good angels. There is no example in Scripture of evil angels ever assuming a body.
Would Not Assume Angels
In addition, the readers of the New Testament would not assume the angelic interpretation as Wayne Grudem notes:
This evidence is none the less helpful in showing that one simply cannot assume that the readers of 1 Peter had an 'angelic' interpretation of Genesis 6:2,4 in their minds. Indeed, Peter would not have assumed an 'angelic' interpretation in his readers' minds either, for no uniform interpretation of this passage can be demonstrated for the first century AD (Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, Tyndale, 1988, pp. 212, 213).
14. Angels Not Exempt From Judgment
One of the arguments against the angel view is that they are nowhere singled out for judgment because of this sin-only the human race was punished for the sin of Genesis 6
. Those who hold the angelic view counter by saying that the angels were not immediately judged by God but will eventually receive their judgment. The passages in 1 and 2 Peter and Jude may refer to their judgment.
Because there is no mention of angelic judgment in the Genesis passage it seems to be clear that it is the judgment of humanity that is in view. The judgment of the angels in 1 and 2 Peter and Jude more likely refers to their original sin, rather than their sin immediately before the Flood.
Other Problems With The Angel View
There are other problems of holding the view that the sons of God were fallen angels.
1. Immediate Context Of Passage
There is nothing in the context that would identify the sons of God with the angelic host. Angels have not
been mentioned in the Book of Genesis to this point and certainly nothing in the story demands we understand the sons of God as angels. The focus is on judgment of humans as Kenneth Matthews notes:
from beginning to end, 6:1-8 concerns humanity and its outcome, not angels and their punishment. The flood is God's judgment against man (vv. 3,5-7), and there is no reference to the culpability of angels (Kenneth Matthews, Genesis 1:1-11:26, Broadman, 1997, pp. 326, 327).
2.Phrase Sons of God Is Unclear
As we have noted, the phrase sons of God is not a clear reference to angels. The three references to the phrase sons of God in Scripture is an insufficient data base to understand the meaning of the term. Though it is possible the phrase means angels in Genesis 6
, it is by no means certain. Kenneth Matthew notes other possible translations:
Elohim can be rendered a genitive of quality, meaning godly sons, referring to the heritage of the Sethites. . . Also important is the weight of the Pentateuch's testimony, which identifies the Israelites as the children of God (e.g. Deut 14:1; 32:5-6; cf Exod 4:2; Pss 73:15; 80:15); this resonates well with taking the sons of God in 6:2 as an allusion to godly (covenant) offspring.
Since it cannot refer to physical descent, i.e., the angels are not physically generated, then we must take sons of God as metaphorical regardless of referent. It follows, then, that the expression can be applied to more than angels, i.e., those who bear the image of God (Matthews, ibid., p. 330, note 108).
If the sons of God refer to angels in Genesis 6
, then the reference is cryptic. Angels have not been mentioned thus far in Genesis. Later they will be mentioned a number times but every other time they are spoken of, they are specifically called angels. Why not here if they were angels?
4.Different Context Than Job
Though angels are in view in Job 1
with the phrase sons of God, it is the context
that makes it clear. The context is different in Job and Genesis. In Job, there is a heavenly court that it identified. There is no such heavenly court or any hint of angels in this context.
5.Angels Do Not Have Physical Form
A major problem with the angel view is that they are ministering spirits-they do not have corporeal form. The Bible says:
In speaking of the angels he says, He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire (Hebrews 1:7).
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14).
Definition Of Angels
Various textbooks on Christian theology note that angels are without bodies.
Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgment and high intelligence, but without physical bodies (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994, p. 397).
angels are spiritual beings; they do not have physical or material bodies. Physical manifestations recorded in Scripture must be regarded as appearances assumed for the occasion (angelophanies) (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Baker Book House, 1983,p. 439).
As to the nature of angels, they are described, (1) As pure spirits, i.e., immaterial or incorporeal beings. The Scriptures do not attribute bodies of any kind to them (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Volume, 1, Eerdmans, reprinted 1995, p. 637).
Wayne Grudem concludes:
Since angels are spirits (Heb. 1:14) or spiritual creatures, they do not ordinarily have physical bodies (Luke 24:39). Therefore they cannot usually be seen by us unless God gives us a special ability to see them (Num. 22:31; 2 Kings 6:17; Luke 2:13). In their ordinary activities of guarding us and protecting us (Ps. 34:7; 91:11; Heb 1:14), and joining us in worship to God (Heb. 12:22), they are invisible. However from time to time angels took on bodily form to appear to various people in Scripture (Matt 28:5; Heb. 13:2) (Grudem, ibid., p. 397).
Though good angels at times assumed some physical form, it is not the case with evil angels. There is not one biblical example of angels taking on a physical form. God would have to grant them that ability.
6. Demons Are Limited By God's Control and Have Limited Power
The story of Job makes it clear that Satan could only do what God gave him permission to do and nothing more (Job 1:12
). Millard Erickson writes:
This great power [of angels] is derived from God and the angels remain dependent upon his favorable will to exercise it. They are restricted to acting within the limits of his permission. This is true even of Satan, whose ability to afflict Job was circumscribed the will of the Lord (Job 1:12;2:6). God's angels act only to carry out God's commands. There is no instance of their acting independently. Only God does the miraculous (Ps. 72:18). As creature, angels are subject to the limitations of creaturehood (Erickson, ibid., p. 441).
However great their power may be, it is nevertheless subject to all the limitations that belong to creatures. Angels, therefore, cannot create, they cannot change substances, they cannot alter the laws of nature, they cannot perform miracles, cannot act without means, and they cannot search the heart; for all these are, in Scripture, declared to be prerogatives peculiar to God. The power of angels is, therefore, (1) Dependent and derived. (2) It must be exercised in accordance with the laws of the material and spiritual world. (3) Their intervention is not optional, but permitted or commanded by God, and at his pleasure (Erickson, ibid., p. 442).
Since this is the case, God would have to have allowed these angels to assume human bodies to be able to produce this race of half-angel, half-human. This is inconsistent with the character of God as revealed in Scripture-He does not participate in sin.
Summary To Angelic View
We have looked at the various arguments for the angelic view and the responses given by those who reject it. On the basis of the biblical evidence, one cannot rule out the possibility that the writer of Genesis had in mind angels when he referred to the sons of God. Yet this does not seem to be the obvious view of the passage or even the likely view. It seems we are dealing with the gross sins of humans, not angels, that caused God to send the Flood.