Published: 7 June 2021

Sex, Women, the Sons of God, and 1 Enoch

Angel, Woman, 1 Enoch

Passages from the Second Temple Period book of 1 Enoch offer an interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4. It claims that the sons of God were rebellious spiritual beings who married human women and that these marriages produced a race of giants called the Nephilim. What do we know about books such as 1 Enoch and can we trust it for shedding light on the Scriptures?

First of all, the books of Enoch are not inspired and were never considered to be a part of the canon of the Hebrew Scripture. Works such as 1 Enoch are religious fiction loosely comparable to Dante’s Inferno or Paradise Lost. While they are based on real events recorded in the Bible and may contain certain truths, they are works of fiction, are not inspired, and are not authoritative. 1 Enoch was a fictional interpretation of the events recorded in Genesis 6. Not only is it mere fiction, it was fiction influenced by pagan stories the Jews had been exposed to during their exile in Babylon. Surprisingly, some Bible students are allowing this work of fiction to influence their interpretation of the inspired Scriptures.

Second Temple Period literature

1 Enoch was written about 1200 years after Moses wrote Genesis. While it is nearly certain that Moses’s original readers of Genesis 6 understood who the sons of God and Nephilim were, it is not at all certain that the Jews of the 2nd Century B.C. did. The books of Enoch, and other literature of the same period, were influenced by Mesopotamian pagan mythology the Jews had encountered during their exile in Babylon.

Every ancient culture had a flood story and the Mesopotamians had one as well. According to Mesopotamian literature there were divine beings of great knowledge called the Apkallus who lived before the flood. Mesopotamian myth says the Apkallus descended to earth, mated with human women, and had semi-divine offspring. Sound familiar?

Sound biblical theology cannot be derived from uninspired, non-canonical Second Temple Period literature!

The Jewish writers were well aware of these pagan stories and there can be little doubt that the myth of the Apkallus colored their thinking about Genesis 6. As a matter of fact, some Jewish texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls give names to the offspring of the “sons of God.” The Book of Giants calls one of these offspring Gilgamesh, the main character from the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh! Clearly, Mesopotamian mythology found its way into Jewish literary tradition during the intertestamental period.

Even though these pagan laced literary traditions existed in Judaism, we should not assume all Jews believed the Enoch interpretation. Likewise, today we must not allow this pagan influence to alter our perception of the scriptures. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is the context in which the author and original readers lived. Uninspired literature that was written 1200 years after Genesis was written is not the original context and cannot be used to arrive at a correct understanding of biblical passages. Sound biblical theology cannot be derived from uninspired, non-canonical Second Temple Period literature! Filtering Genesis 6 through a genre of intertestamental religious fiction is not being true to Moses’s original intent. It is true that Second Temple Period literature is valuable for understanding Jewish ideas from that period, but we must not let uninspired writings overly influence our understanding of the Bible.

What does Genesis 6:1-4 actually say?

Just as important, what does it NOT say? The proponents of divine/human marriages read a good deal into the text that it does not actually say.

“1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 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.” (Gen. 6:1–4 ESV)

First of all, notice that the text does not identify the sons of God as angels nor any other kind of spiritual beings. As was noted in the previous article, the context determines who the sons of God are and the context here suggests they are human. In addition, there is no indication in this passage that anything sinful was taking place. It does not say the sons of God were guilty of sin nor does it say the daughters of man were engaged in nefarious activities. Since the phrases “sons of God” and “daughters of men” are speaking of godly and ungodly people respectively, then the worst that can be said is that poor judgement was being used in selecting spouses.

What about the Nephilim?

Likewise, the passage here in Genesis does not accuse the Nephilim of any particular sin. Yet, an important part of the fictional account of 1 Enoch centers of the giants, also known as the Nephilim. The assumption is that the Nephilim were the hybrid offspring produced by the union of angels mating with human women. There is one huge problem with this notion: this is not what Gen 6:4 says!

The text says that the Nephilim were on the earth in those days. What was happening in “those days?” It was the time when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and bore children to them. Notice the text does not say the Nephilim were the children who were born to the sons of God and daughters of men. It says they lived at the same time. That’s all it says. The Nephilim existed on the earth at this time and the text does not say they were the offspring of these unions.

The related idea from 1 Enoch that God sent the flood to clean up the mess instigated by these rebellious angels and to eliminate the Nephilim falls flat. Genesis 6 states that there were Nephilim after the flood also. This theory of divine/human mating says the Nephilim were around after the flood because these fallen angels continued to have relations with Noah’s female offspring. Wouldn’t this imply that God wiped out almost all life on earth for nothing if these angels were just going to keep on having sex with human women? Was God so inept that He was unable to defeat the rebellion of these angels since they kept on procreating once the earth was repopulated with human women?

This exposes an internal inconsistency in the theory. 1 Enoch says God had the rebellious angels captured and chained in darkness to await their judgement. If they were locked up and could no longer have sex with human women, how did the Nephilim appear again to seduce human women after the flood? Hmmm.

The reality set forth in the text is simply that the Nephilim lived at the time when the sons of men were marrying the daughters of men. The Bible doesn’t say where the Nephilim came from nor exactly what they were. The fact that there were Nephilim after the flood (Num 13:33) indicates the word is not ethnic, just a word meaning “giants” (actually, the meaning of “Nephilim” is disputed among scholars). Anyone after the flood, including giants (e.g. Goliath), was a descendant of Noah, not some sort of hybrid offspring.

Is it possible for angels to procreate?

There is no evidence whatsoever in the Bible which suggests angels can reproduce. There is no example, statement, nor necessary inference. When God ordered creation, He designed both plants and animals to reproduce their own kind (Gen 1:11, 24). It is common knowledge that plants and animals of different kinds cannot reproduce. Likewise, there is no evidence that angels would be able to reproduce with a different kind (humans). In fact, the evidence is fairly conclusive that angels cannot reproduce at all.

“in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30 ESV)

Jesus plainly says angels do not marry! Those who believe in divine/human mating point out that it is the angels in heaven who do not marry and therefore Jesus said nothing about the mating habits of the angels who left heaven. Fair enough. I think they are stretching things a bit with that observation, but still, the burden of proof to show that angels procreate falls upon them because the idea can’t be found in the Bible.

Conclusion

This whole idea that humans and angels married and produced a race of hybrid giants simply can’t be supported by the Bible. At first glance it may appear that Genesis 6:1-4 suggests this, but when we read the passage very carefully it is easy to see that it doesn’t actually say any of this. The proponents of the theory of divine beings mating with humans have allowed a genre of religious fiction written in the 3rd century B.C. to dominate their view of Scripture. This is something that we cannot allow ourselves to do if we are to draw valid conclusions from God’s Word. In the next article, we’ll examine Jude and Peter’s interaction with 1 Enoch.