The Nephilim and the Book of Jude

As some of you may know, a number of years ago I wrote a book called, The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us. It’s a fictional piece written as a defense of the Christian faith and of the New Testament. In my book I also tried to raise some doubts about the wildly popular notion that the Nephilim, mentioned in Genesis 6, are the bi-products of fallen angels and women.

Now, a few months ago one of my coworkers who knew something of my thoughts on the subject, encouraged me to listen to a podcast called Camp Hermon. He had indicated that the hosts of this show not only entertain the notion that the Nephilim came from fallen angels, but they have guests who have made good arguments in that favor.   Always intrigued by a good argument, I decided to give the show a listen. In fact, I had also reached out to the hosts of the show to share some of my points and they did respond to me.

Now, I haven’t listened to every episode from that show, but I recently caught one, which this theory’s arguments were put forth by an expert in the field. Since I didn’t hear back again from the folks at Camp Hermon, I decided I’d respond here on my own platform.  Now, keep in mind that I have no axe to grind in terms of this subject matter or the good people at Camp Hermon. I got a sense from my brief interaction with them and from listening to a few episodes that they love the Lord like I do. They were nothing but cordial and polite with me and I can’t and won’t say anything negative about them. However, I have a desire for truth and though I don’t claim to know everything there is about this subject, I believe that I know enough to raise some serious doubts about what their recent expert said on their show.

So, in the spirit of offering a balancing point of view, I thought I’d post this blog for anyone who might have an open mind to listen to what I believe to be a sound argument made against the tide of popular opinion regarding the Nephilim.

Let me first set the stage if you aren’t already familiar with what we’re talking about.  Back in the Old Testament, in Genesis chapter 6, we have this account, “Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.” Then verse 4 “There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”

Now, that’s from the New King James Version. The translators used the word “giants” in verse 4 for the Hebrew word Nephilim. Many modern translations just preserve the Hebrew word in its English form in that verse. Now, as I’ve pointed out, the very popular notion is that the Nephilim were the product of fallen angels who had married women. That idea is kind of taken here from Genesis, though I must point out that the passage does not say that. It only says that the sons of God married the daughters of men and that the Nephilim were in those days. Genesis does not state that the Nephilim were the products of those marriages.

So, where, then, does this idea come from? Well, many believe that the Bible teaches it elsewhere. Specifically, from the New Testament book of Jude.

By clicking this link you can listen to Dr. Douglas Hamp, a regular guest on the Camp Hermon show explain how he believes the Jude teaches that fallen angels are the subject of Genesis chapter 6, and thus the progenitors of the Nephilim. His summary of Jude is complete in about 2 1/2 minutes.

Dr. Hamp states that the Bible tells us “point blank” that it was angels who came down and did something similar to what had happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. And this is sort of the knot that he uses to tie Genesis 6 and Jude together and demonstrate who the Nephilim are. The problem is that Dr Hamp is basing his argument on a word that’s been inserted into the Biblical text that’s not in the original Greek. In other words, his Biblical proof that the Nephilim are the sons of the fallen angels is centered on a word that doesn’t actually appear in Jude’s manuscript. Let me show you what I mean.

Dr Hamp appears to be reading from Jude verses 5-7 from the New English Translation.  The verse that he focuses on is verse 7 which says, “since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels.”

Of interest, the word “angels” does not appear in the Greek text -not the Textus Receptus or the Alexandrian manuscripts. The word is simply not there. Now, this isn’t the only translation that inserts the word there – there are a few others; but they are in the minority. Those that do insert the word do so in a way making it clear that the word was made up. For example, the New English Translation that Dr Hamp appears to be reading from includes a note alongside the word angels, which admits that, “angels is not in the Greek text” and that it is used because the pronoun “these” likely refers back to angels of verse 6. The New American Standard Bible, which also includes the word angels in their translation, keeps it in italics, which is a signal to the reader that they’ve inserted a word that wasn’t in the original text.

Although Dr Hamp suggests that the Bible tells us “straight up” that Jude is referring to angels, the scholars who actually put together the New English Translation don’t seem as convinced because they only suggest that it might be angels.  You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to know that the syntax of the sentence of verse 7 does not require that angels are in view because:

1. The majority of translations leave it out

2. Those that do put it in, like the NET that Dr Hamp reads from, can’t tell us conclusively that it must be angels.

The big question that we have before us is: did Jude have in mind that the angels who had left their proper domain had sinned in a like manner to what had happened in Sodom and Gomorrah, or is there something else in view?

I’m going to suggest to you that there is another way of understanding Jude verse 7 that seems to make better contextual sense.  Keep in mind that Jude’s one-chapter letter is sort of a commentary of 2 Peter chapter 2. I think Dr Hamp would agree with me on that because he says something similar to that in his interview.

The subject of both 2 Peter chapter 2 and Jude is the false teachers that they’re trying to warn against. Peter tells us they’re coming, and Jude tells us they’re already here. But they’re both warning about the same thing.

Both Peter and Jude describe how God is able to judge the wicked while preserving the righteous. To do this they give us several examples. Peter writes that God did not spare angels but cast them down to Tartarus. Note, that Peter doesn’t say what the angels did, or describe their sin, or even say when this happened, only that God judged them. Then, Peter tells us that God judged the ancient world with the flood but saved Noah. Lastly, Peter gives us the example of how God judged the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah but saved Lot.

Following Peter’s lead, Jude says something similar. He tells us that the deceivers have already arrived and then reminds his readers that God judged Egypt but spared Israel. He sort of repeats the part about the angels that Peter had introduced, but he goes a little further, telling us that they didn’t keep their proper domain but left their abode. Then, he also reminds his readers that God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, who sinned “similar to these.” And that’s the crucial part. Did the angels commit sin like what was found in Sodom and Gomorrah, as implied by Dr Hamp, or is it possible that Jude as something else in mind?

Well, remember, Peter doesn’t tell us what the angels did, and Jude only tells us that they had not kept their proper domain – whatever that means. So, up until this point we have very little information about what these angels had done other than to abandoned their own place of residence, and there is absolutely no reference to the angels committing any kind of sexual sin. And, it’s important to remember that we aren’t trying to make a case for or against the angels marrying women in Genesis 6. Instead, we’re just trying to find out the truth, wherever that takes us.

Now, you may ask, “if Jude isn’t talking about the angels of verse 6 in verse 7, then who’s he talking about?”  That’s a good question.

Do you remember who the subject of Jude’s warning was?  It was the “certain men” – or literally people –  who have crept in unnoticed (vs 4). Does Jude give us any insight about these men? Yes he does. In verse 4 Jude tells us that they have turned the grace of God into “lewdness” – that’s a New King James word. The New American Standard Bible calls it ‘licentiousness.” That’s not a word we use every day, so what does it mean?

According to Strongs, the original Greek word means “outrages conduct, or conduct shocking to public decency.” Thayer’s Greek dictionary suggests that the word carries the meaning of “unbridled lust” and “shamelessness” behavior and the “unchaste handling of males and females”.

Doing a little more digging on the word, we find “uninhibited sexual indulgence” and descriptions like, “prone to acts of violence and particularly sexual violence” or “indecent assault.”

Interestingly, Peter uses the same Greek word when he is describing the same group of deceivers in 2 Peter 2:18, when he writes, “they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness” If that isn’t clear enough, Peter also tells us in verse 14 that they have “eyes full of adultery.”

It’s quite plain then to anyone who is willing to see that the sins that Jude and Peter say that the deceivers have is of a sexual nature. Therefore, when we read Jude, who had only said that the angels had left their domain, we already know that the deceivers who are threatening the church are doing so with flagrant sexual sin.  I believe then, that it is more reasonable to assume that the “these” mentioned by Jude in verse 7, and connected to the sexual sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is a direct reference to the sexually deviant false teachers, which is the subject of his letter, and not the angels, which is merely an example that he’s giving.

Those who believe that it’s a reference to angels will argue that the pronoun “these” of verse 7 is a masculine pronoun and must be connected to a masculine noun, which of course angels is. However, the subject of the entire letter, which is certain men – or literally people – is also a masculine noun, and therefore, fits perfectly.   Therefore, I believe, it is more reasonable to assume that Jude is comparing the sexual sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to the sexual sins of the false teachers, who both Peter and Jude have made clear, rather than to the sins of the angels which they have not clearly defined.

If what I am suggesting is correct, then Jude and Peter are not talking about the situation found in Genesis 6, and the Biblical evidence for the belief that the Nephilim came from fallen angels is non-existent. If what I have suggested is at least a possible theory, then no one can rightly say that the Bible clearly teaches the Nephilim are from fallen angles – they can only say that the Bible might teach it, but that they don’t know for sure.

I have one final point to make. But before I do so I want to make it clear that I don’t care if the Nephilim are the product of fallen angels. I have nothing vested in that argument and if I learn one day that they really are, I couldn’t imagine caring more about it than I already do (which isn’t much). That knowledge won’t make me love and follow Jesus any better.  But of this last point that I’m going to make, I do care. This is where I will become a little more adamant. This is where I drop the gloves – figuratively speaking, of course.

I’ve heard many Christians, who while striving to make their point that the Nephilim are the product of fallen angels, refer to non-Biblical texts to interpret Genesis 6. I fully understand that ancient writings are an invaluable source in trying to understand language. But, I’m not talking about how language was used, I’m talking about using pagan texts to actually assist us in interpreting the inspired Word of God. I believe that this is dangerous ground – very thin ice – and I can’t imagine how Christians find themselves doing it unless they’re just so fixed on reaching the conclusion that they want to reach – which is not how we do hermeneutics.

Chief among these texts used is the book of Enoch. Or, 1 Enoch to be exact.  In my ministry I often field questions about it because it seems that it is as popular as ever.  And, there is no doubt that the writer of 1 Enoch holds that fallen angels married women and produced the Nephilim. So, let me address 1 Enoch if I may. Scholars date the book of 1 Enoch to about 200 – 300 years before Jesus. However, the author claims to be Enoch, the Seventh from Adam (2 Parables Chapter 1, Verse 1). Of course, this cannot be the case since the Enoch mentioned in Genesis was born thousands of years before the books’ author.

The book of Enoch belongs to a classification of books known as pseudepigrapha. Which means that the author wasn’t being honest about who he was and gave himself another name. He was pretending to be someone that he wasn’t. That should be our first clue.

But the real problem with the book of Enoch occurs in 1 Enoch chapter 71 and verse 14. It’s in that section that Enoch reveals who the Messiah is – and drum roll please – it’s not Jesus. It’s himself. The author of Enoch records that angelic messengers revealed that HE is he Messiah – the Son of Man.

I believe that this passage should make Christians everywhere stop. Because what we have here is not only a book written by someone who wasn’t being truthful about who he was, but it’s a false gospel. It preaches a different Christ. And what I can’t understand for the life of me is why Christians want to use a false gospel to help them interpret the sacred word of God.

Paul wrote in Galatians 1 that even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed – or literally damned.  And, here we have exactly that – a story about an angel from heaven preaching another gospel.

So, again, why would Christians want to take a document that Paul would consider damnable and use it to discern what the mind of God is on a certain subject? Why do some turn to a false gospel to see what the Bible has to say?

Do you see the problem here? Yet, it happens with alarming frequency even by very intelligent Christians.

Now, I know that someone might ask, “Hey, wait, didn’t Jude quote from Enoch? Why would Jude cite it if we can’t use it?”

Those are good questions – and easily handled. Do you remember in Acts 17 when Paul stood delivering his famous sermon on Mars Hill?   In that message Paul quotes from a Greek poet named Aratus. The poem is known as “Hymn to Zeus.” Now, let me ask you, does this mean that Paul believed Aratus was an inspired prophet of God? Because he quoted the poem, does Paul believe that it was an inspired document? Does Paul want us to consider the exploits of Zeus so we can better interpret the works of God?

Of course not.

Paul is doing what any good preacher does. He’s using something that his listeners are already familiar with to make a point. That’s it.      And I believe that Jude is doing the very same thing. He’s taking something that his readers are already familiar with and making a point with that. Paul used the poem of a false God and Jude used a line from a false gospel. There’s no good reason to take either passage any further than that. Stop using false gospels to divine the Word of God.

So, did the Nephilim really come from fallen angels? Well, I believe that that notion is not clearly supported by the Bible and going to false gospels to discern the mind of God is a very dangerous thing to do.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 36 years.



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