Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nephilim, the Sons of God, Church Fathers: Angels or Men?

Update: I made a youtube video on this topic, its more indepth than this article

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It was brought up in Paltalk that the ante Nicean Fathers believed the "sons of God" refered to fallen angels in Genesis 6.  This is mostly true, especially in the case of Tertullian. However, not ALL of them believed the sons of God were angels.  For example, we have Sextus Julius Africanus who was a contemporary of Tertullian, unlike Tertullian he was familar with the Biblical languages even Hebrew.

He is Julius' commentary on Genesis 6:

 When men multiplied on the earth, the angels of heaven came together with the daughters of men. In some copies I found "the sons of God." What is meant by the Spirit, in my opinion, is that the descendants of Seth are called the sons of God on account of the righteous men and patriarchs who have sprung from him, even down to the Saviour Himself; but that the descendants of Cain are named the seed of men, as having nothing divine in them, on account of the wickedness of their race and the inequality of their nature, being a mixed people, and having stirred the indignation of God. But if it is thought that these refer to angels, we must take them to be those who deal with magic and jugglery, who taught the women the motions of the stars and the knowledge of things celestial, by whose power they conceived the giants as their children, by whom wickedness came to its height on the earth, until God decreed that the whole race of the living should perish in their impiety by the deluge.--Fragment 2, Extant Works of Julius Africanus

We see here that he follows in line with the stardard interpretation of today, that the Sons of God are the Sons of Seth, and the daughters of men are from Cain.

St Ephraim the Syrian writing in the late 4th century says similar in regards to Genesis 6, this is important since St Ephraim's reading of the Scriptures follows traditional rabbinical reading, even at that time there were some rabbis that held to this interpretation, though even in Judaism the predominant reading was "sons of God" refered to the angels. 

Regardless as to how many early Christians read sons of God as the sons of Seth is irrelevant, my point is simply to established that the Seth interpretation was not a post Nicene invention, but rather a preexistent, though less favored interpretation.