In a brief exchange with avid Remnant of Giants blog-subscriber, Emma, we commented how some biblical interpreters go to great lengths to avoid the conclusion that the Bible has any Giants in it. Some people are quite comfortable with labelling the Bible as an ‘historical’ book – although it narrates Yahweh giving odd revelations on mountains, striking people with leprosy, or healing with magic snake charms, among many other things – but as soon as there’s any hint of Giants, that gets covered over as ‘mythic’ material which is entirely inconsistent with the enlightened perspective of the Bible.
Now if the poor old Giants get explained away by the misguided pious, what hope have the copulating angels of Gen. 6.4? Not much. In the history of the interpretation of Gen. 6.4, people have gone to great lengths to avoid the simple conclusion that the beney ha’elohim who were having sexual intercourse with the ‘daughters of men’, and producing legendary offspring, were just fairly ordinary blokes – certainly not, as the phrase seems fairly clearly to mean, ‘sons of God/gods’. The most famous of these apologetic moves is Augustine’s tendentious, yet influential, interpretation of the ‘sons of God’ as ‘the sons of Cain’ rather than angels (City of God 15.23–24). More recently, Christian apologist Walter Kaiser (Hard Sayings of the Bible, 108) attempted an interpretation of the beney ha’elohim as human ‘kings’, ‘princes’ or ‘aristocrats’.
In The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When it Gets God Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It) (Wipf & Stock, 2010), Thom Stark makes a quick rebuttal of Kaiser’s apologetic interpretation which is well worth sharing. His book has been causing quite a ripple in some circles. One of the reasons for its popularity must surely be that Stark delivers concise yet usually discerning arguments. This is no more evident that when he points out the absurd results of Kaiser’s contorted interpretation of Gen. 6.4:
…It is…difficult to understand why kings taking wives is an event worthy of special report like this….More problematic still is the image of all the kings of the earth going out en masse with the aim of taking wives – something like a foxhunt… (78-79)
Ha! When biblical scholarship turns into apologetics, I think a witty yet discerning dismissal such as this one is precisely the fitting response.