The Sons of God has been a much-debated topic for many years. There are a couple of theories out there but… My focus will be on just two of them.
Some believe the Sons of God was referring to fallen angels, while others believe that it was referring to the line of Seth, the “righteous” ones at the time. I believe that both make compelling arguments however-only one can be the truth.
In this study, I am going to tackle the Sethite Theory.
History of the Sethite Theory
So which theory came first?
Sextus Julius Africanus (180-250), was the first Christian historian known to produce a universal chronology. He has also been credited as one of the first people to change the angel world view that had already been accepted by ancient rabbis and the Early Church fathers, to the Sethite Theory. It is important to note, that this theory came 3 centuries after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension.
This is his claim:
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.chronicled in section II of The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus
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.The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus
Why Did People Start To Embrace This New Teaching?
We have to understand that the Catholic Church were at the height of great power and authority at that time and many people coming into Christianity came from illiterate background. Plus, Bibles were expensive to own, as the printing press at that time was just starting to come onto the scene.
It is also important to note, that Julius considered this to be his opinion. Yet, this didn’t stop Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine from embracing this doctrine, which then spread throughout the Middle Ages, and henceforth replaced the true meaning of the word (B’nai Elohim) and the understanding at the time.
Another good explanation given is from Chuck Messler’s, and he explains it like this- “It was in the 5th century a.d. that the “angel” interpretation of Genesis 6 was increasingly viewed as an embarrassment when attacked by critics. (Furthermore, the worship of angels had begun within the church. Also, celibacy had also become an institution of the church. The “angel” view of Genesis 6 was feared as impacting these views.) Celsus and Julian the Apostate used the traditional “angel” belief to attack Christianity. Julius Africanus resorted to the Sethite interpretation as a more comfortable ground. Cyril of Alexandria also repudiated the orthodox “angel” position, with the “line of Seth” interpretation”.
So What Verse Are We Talking About & What Is The Problem With It?
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.— Genesis 6:1–4, KJV
The theory goes, that the sons of God (Seth’s son), saw the daughters of men (Cain’s daughter), and took them as wives as many as they wanted, and because of this mixture wickedness increased on the earth. It is said that the Son’s of Seth were the righteous ones and the daughters of men where the daughters of Cain. The problem with this theory is that there were no laws given at that time, that prohibited both lines from intermingling with each other. Plus, Seth was made in the likeness of his father Adam, not God. Here is the verse to consider
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.Genesis 5:1-3
Notice how God named them (not Adam) Man (humankind) in the day they were created. He never referred to humans as Sons before the New Testament. Also, daughters are referred to as DAUGHTERS OF MEN, again giving emphasis on the fact that there was a difference between the two “people” stated here.
Here is another verse to consider:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among themJob 1:6
If this was talking about humans, how did they present themselves before God here on earth? This is clearly referring to Angels. Here is another verse in the Old Testament that proves that the writers were speaking about Angels.
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth! Tell me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”Job 38:4-7
This is God’s response to Job. He is asking Job where he was when God created the earth, and when he created the morning stars and all the sons of God shouted for joy! We understand from the account of creation that God created the Heavens and the earth before he made humankind. So again, the Sethite theory proves wrong.
Now lets get into the New Testament understanding of The Sons of God.
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of GodJohn 1:11-13
Becoming “Children of God” is something that is exclusive to New Testament believers, through Jesus Christ. Had it been something that was already established, meaning given to the righteous, then this verse would not be here. This proves that the sons of God was never a reference to humans in the Old Testament.
In this study, I wanted to bring to light and build a foundation on the obvious, as to why the Angel interpretation of “The Sons of God” fits perfectly. As you read, this interpretation was here first while the Sethite theory came 3 centuries after. Lastly, it is only through Jesus Christ, that we are called Children of God.
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