Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

Where a recovering ex-atheist skewers things with a sharp two-edged sword

About Language & Interpretation Spirit World

How many sons of God can dance on the head of a pin?

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3 minutes to read A response to Steve Hays in which I defend the Enochian interpretation of Genesis 6:1–4, and point out some obvious problems with his objections.

Steve has made some comments in response to my comments on his comments on an alien conspiracy theorist’s comments on Genesis 6:1–4’s comments on the sons of God and the Nephilim. So I am going to venture further comments in return.

1. Michael Heiser

I won’t quibble with Steve’s view of Michael Heiser. I actually considered including a note in my initial article to explain why I quote Mike so much. If there were other scholars doing what he is doing, I would quote them too. But they are rare. It’s true that Mike is a niche scholar—in my opinion his limitations become obvious any time he strays too close to analytic or systematic theology—and I have extensively critiqued him for this. But in his niche he is not only a respectable scholar—he’s the only one who is readily accessible. This lack of competition reflects ill on the congregation.

2. Legendary embellishment

I agree with Steve that the works I cited to prove the pedigree of my interpretation often involve legendary embellishments. I don’t think 1 Enoch 6–7, for example, is likely to be true where it overreaches the Bible in its details. My point was twofold:


To our knowledge, alternative readings are late innovations in the history of understanding the text. That lends prima facie weight to the traditional reading (and those italics are not just there because it’s a Latin term).


If 2 Peter 2 and Jude are referring back to Genesis 6:1–4, as they appear to be, then the fact that the “Enochian” interpretation was widespread and commonly accepted, with no competition that we know about, is very significant to exegeting what Peter and Jude are saying—because the key question in any exegesis is how would the original readers have understood this?

3. Steve’s odd argument

Steve’s main argument against the Enochian interpretation is that once the sons of God became human, they would have only human abilities, and would therefore neither (a) be able to return to their former spirit state, nor (b) sire unusual children. I find this argument frankly puzzling.


We know next to nothing about the abilities of the sons of God, save that they are literally godlike. Under biblical anthropology, human beings are a composite of spirit and matter. Is there some reason—some definitive, scientific or theological reason—that the sons of God could not form human bodies to inhabit, or take human bodies to inhabit, in much the way that demons inhabit people? This would not require them to become human, as if their spiritual essences could be transformed into human essences. It would simply require adding flesh to their natures.


We know next to nothing about the way that the spirits of human beings are created, nor how they relate to our bodies. I am somewhat inclined to Traducianism on the basis of my reading of passages like Genesis 5:3 and a sense of consistency with how human bodies are formed. And I am somewhat inclined to a hylemorphic view of spirit/body dualism on the basis of philosophical considerations. It’s certainly hard to see any obvious contradiction between (at least) that combination of views and the idea that a divine/human hybrid would be spiritually and physically unusual—viz the origin of demons and the stature of the Nephilim. On the face of it, in fact, Traducianism combined with hylemorphism would seem to predict that.

Steve can disagree with one or both of Traducianism and hylemorphism—and I’m not inclined to defend positions I don’t firmly hold. But the point is that his argument just seems unresponsive to some obvious and major lines of theological reasoning here.

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