Difficult Scripture

A Blog from David Johnson

My daughter in law belongs to an online faith group. It does tend to have some very conservative members and tackles some hard to understand passages.  One of the topics that came up in the group was Genesis 6:1-4.  This is the passage where the sons of god mate with human women which result in giants or so a typical translation would go.  The conversation got into a lot of speculation around whether God created bad angels (sons of god)?  Were giants/Nephilim real?  This of course leads to all sorts of speculation on the existence and roles of angelic and demonic beings.  Speculation can easily get out of hand. 
That begs the question, how should difficult Scripture be approached?  

Go to authoritative sources.  If you’re having a heart attack, you don’t go to a dentist, you go to a cardiologist, preferably at the ER.  Same should be true for scripture; if you are having difficulty understanding, go to an authority. For the Genesis 6:1-4 problem, we looked up Jewish and Christian sources that were considered authoritative: interpretations by major rabbis in the Talmud, Luther, Calvin and resources used in seminaries.  The sources differed on their interpretation of who the sons of god were; angelic beings gone bad; human leaders who saw themselves as Demi-gods, common in ancient Middle East, etc.   What giants/Nephilim were. Some sources said they were literal giants, others that the Hebrew implies unusually strong humans.   The question to ask when there are significant differences in interpretation is, how do the differences affect the faith lesson to be learned?  Here, the sources all agreed that the sons of god and humans were crossing lines that were forbidden by God.

Interpret scripture with scripture.  It can be dangerous to quote isolated passages without context, or without the overall message of scripture.  Even the devil quotes scripture to tempt Jesus. The story of the sons of god, humans and giants is the last in a series of stories describing despicable acts committed by humans. Cain kills Abel; Lamech relishes his evil, the spread of wickedness seems to culminate in this story.  The verses immediately following this passage show God seeing man’s wickedness and seeing they were evil all the time. God regrets even having created them, and the story of Noah and the flood follows.  So the story of the sons of god, humans and giants is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.   Whether Jewish or Christian, the authoritative sources agreed on the message – that humans had become so wicked that God is disgusted and regrets creating them.  This passage is the climax of that wickedness.  None of the authoritative sources saw theological significance in the nature of the “sons of god” or of the “giants.” That is not the main point.   Speculation can draw us away from listening to God speaking to us in scripture.  We need the right approach to avoid pitfalls.  Use authoritative sources.  See if differences lead to different conclusions.  Interpret the passage within the rest of the Bible.  Have humility over differences of interpretation.  Finally, pray and talk it over with a trusted spiritual resource

like your pastor.

One Response to “Difficult Scripture”

  1. Mike Moore says:

    Great topic! I would love to dig deeper into the GIANTS.

Leave a Reply