12 October 2008

The Book of Enoch (Pt 6) - Genesis 6, Angels & Objections (Pt 1)

Abraham and the three angelsOK, so we have gathered a few objections to the angels and women understanding of Genesis 6. However, we have also received some from a reader, so I wanted to deal with them a little also.

But first, let us turn to the early church fathers again. I gave a couple quotes from them in the two part discussion on the Nephilim (see HERE), but here is quite a few more, only a couple I will share here:
The other angels were created by Him, and entrusted with the control of matter and the forms of matter...Just as with men, they have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice...Some of them have continued in those things for which God had made them. They have remained over the things to which He had ordained them. But some outraged both the constitution of their nature and the oversight entrusted to them...These angels fell into impure love of virgins and were subjugated by the flesh...Those who are called giants were begotten from these lovers of virgins. Athenagoras (c. 175, E), 2.142

The angels are likewise possessed of personal freedom. For we can be sure that if the angels had not possessed personal freedom, they would not have consorted with the daughters of men, thereby sinning and falling from their places. In like manner, also, the other angels, who did the will of their Lord, were raised to a higher rank because of their self-control. Bardesanes (c. 222, E), 8.725.

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 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. Justin Martyr (c. 160) 1.190

...in the days of Noah He justly brought on the deluge for the purpose of extinguishing that most infamous race of men then existent, who could not bring forth fruit to God, since the angels that sinned had commingled with them... Irenaeus (c. 180) 1.524

To which also we shall add, that the angels who had obtained the superior rank, having sunk into pleasures, told to the women the secrets which had come to their knowledge... Clement of Alexandria (c. 195) 2.446
I could quote many, many more as evidence that this was pretty much the common understanding amoung the Ante-Nicene fathers, but I will stop at this point. Like I said before, I do not hold the early church up as an infallible rule, but since so many other people look to them for defending other historic doctrines, it is at least prudent to look at their teachings in such matters as these.

Now, the first objection is edited and summed up like this:

Objection #1

How could a spiritual being, an angel, impregnate a woman. Angels do not have physical bodies, they cannot take on physical bodies at will, and they do not have the creative power of God to beget life on their own. In the case of mortals, God has determined how mankind shall reproduce, and it is He who gives life. In the case of these depraved angels, it would seem impossible for them to beget children through women, or any other creature.
Now of course this objection was a quick post summed up by the writer from a lecture heard on the topic, and does not provide much depth or defense for this position, but let us briefly look at it as it is simply stated.

Where do we find in the Bible any support for these claims:

1) Angels are spiritual beings and can't impregnate women
2) Angels do not/cannot have physical bodies (or not take them on at will)
3) Angels do have the ability to beget life on their own
Interestingly, we can easily dismiss part of point two from the Scripture. Genesis 18 tells of Abraham meeting three angels, in human form, whose feet he washed, and then sat eating and drinking with them. So they obviously can take on physical bodies when needed. Most commentators agree these three visitors were angels, and I will mention just one esteemed commentator:
Before Moses proceeds to his principal subject, he describes to us, the hospitality of the holy man; and he calls the angels men, because, being clothed with human bodies, they appeared to be nothing else than men. - John Calvin
This is further enforced as being the case when just one chapter later we find:
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth (Genesis 19:1)
And again, we find them in physical form, being touched, and eating with Lot. And then what are we to make of the exhortation in Hebrews 13:2:
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
It seems plain that angels can, have, and will take human form to appear to us for various reasons. Do they have power to do so at anytime as they will? Who knows. I don't believe the Scripture says much of anything relating to this, for or against, so how can we just throw the whole topic out based on silence? We have evidence they can become physical, so that is enough to dismiss the second part of this objection.

So, if they are indeed able to take human, physical form, who says they cannot have relations with or procreate with mankind? Who says they are totally unable to procreate? How do we know they indeed cannot beget life on their own? Where in the canon of Scripture is this topic even addressed?

Such objections seems solely based on speculation, and as we see, these speculations fly in the face of the church historic.
You have sometimes read and believed that the Creator's angels have been changed into human form, and have carried about so real of a body that Abraham even washed their feet and Lot was rescued from the Sodomites by their hands. An angel, moreover, wrestled with a man so strenuously with his body, that the latter desired to be let loose. Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.523.
So, we see the Scriptures do reveal that while angels are spiritual beings, some in the order of angels, can, have, and still do take on physical form to interact with mankind. We find no evidence from canonical Scripture that these beings are incapable of sexual relations or procreation, and therefore can make no clear doctrine on the topic.

So, in my mind, this objection is no real objection based on Scripture at all.

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8