Well, maybe more appropriately, listeners. This post is primarily for those who listen to the In Faith podcast; last week I released episode 8 of the Old Testament in Faith series, with the argument that the Nephilim were not the product of angels and humans, but of the descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth. Fortunately I have a godly mom who’s on top of things, and still able to teach, and she sent me some links and discussions on why that interpretation is wrong. I dug in my heels for a little while, but in recording a “correction” I realized I no longer agreed with my original position.
If you listen to the episode after February 13, 2021, you’ll hear everything that is written below. For those that have already listened to the episode, you don’t need to listen to the whole thing all over again: here is what my studying discovered, through and building off of the resources my mom sent me.
According to blueletterbible.org, there are 11 instances of the phrase “sons of God” used in all Scripture, Old and New Testament. 5 of them clearly use it to reference non-human beings—angels, for the most part, but also something else that we’ll get to in a second. I expected a change in the New Testament, and in some ways it does—but it actually does not change in a very fascinating pair of verses. So, in Job 1:6 and 2:1, what the NIV translates as “angels” is the same Hebrew words—meaning “sons of God” used twice in Genesis 6—saying “the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord”; in Job 38:6-7 God says, speaking of the creation of the world: “On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels [sons of God] shouted for joy?”
Then, when we get to the New Testament, John 1:12, Romans 8:14, Philippians 2:15, and 1 John 3:1-2 use sons of God in a manner that implies us here on earth who believe in Christ. But Romans 8:18-19 says: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children [or sons] of God to be revealed.” So it is something not yet happened—we as true and complete sons and daughters of God are not yet revealed, and our immortal, imperishable, non-human bodies have not yet been given to us. And even the 1 John passage says: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” So even hidden in that passage is the recognition that while we can call ourselves children now, what we will eventually, fully be is not yet known.
We can also compare Jude verse 6 with 2 Peter 2:4, and find this—in Jude: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” Compare 2 Peter: “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;” In the 2 Peter passage, he calls attention to three groups of people condemned by God—these angels; those destroyed in the Flood; and Sodom and Gomorrah. By chronology, we can infer that the angels who sinned were “the sons of God” in Genesis 6—those who, by the similar wording in Jude, “did not keep their positions of authority,” but had “abandoned their proper dwelling.” So what do those two phrases mean? In the Greek, what the NIV translates as “positions of authority” is a word meaning domain, or place of origin—so they did not keep to the place they had been originally, or their proper domain; and “their proper dwelling” that they abandoned? That word that is translated dwelling is only used one other time in the New Testament: 2 Corinthians 5:2 “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling” clearly referring to our glorified, non-human bodies—the same ones that the creation groans while waiting for us to be revealed as the sons and daughters of God. So Jude can be read that angels did not keep to their place of origin, but abandoned their proper bodies—we can infer, then, that they entered a domain, and were clothed in a dwelling, capable and desirous of marrying the daughters of humans—the result of which were the Nephilim, great giants and oppressors.
What is unclear, still, is exactly what this intermixed race would have been like, and I still find it risky for Christians to become too infatuated with the idea, and to spend too great a time focused on something that, ultimately, God wiped out completely. I think it is quite safe to assume that anything God eradicates is not something we should offer a lot of non-Biblical speculation on.