The following was a set of quotations that I produced for set of teaching on Genesis 6.1-8, the passage with the Sons of God, Nephilim, and the Heroes of Old. They go from Biblical, to Pseudepigraphal, to interpretations found in the Church Fathers and some Jewish documents. This is of course, not a full set of quotations, and more could probably be said. But its a good basis to see how widespread the view that the events in Genesis 6.1-4 specifically were seen in a supernatural light by many early interpretors.
Bible – Old Testament – Unless otherwise noted scripture quoted is the ESV, pseudepigrapha unless noted is R.H. Charles
6 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Some Septuagint Comments
Notes that man manuscripts in 6.2 have “angels of God” instead of “sons of God.” Also further note that it says instead of “nephilim” and “mighty men,” it has “giants” in both spots, where it sees both as one and the same and as giants.
LXX of Ezekiel 32.12,20-21,26-27 appears to have been influenced by Genesis 6.4 – Mighty Men/Men of Valor are now translated as Giants and nations seem more personified as the “Giants of Old.”
Bible – New Testament
2 Peter 2.4
Genesis 6 or primeval fall of Satan?
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
Again Genesis 6 or primeval fall of Satan? Note, however that the angels are linked with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah which is specifically noted as “sexual immorality.”
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
1 Corinthians 11.10
Is Paul’s reasoning based on a supernatural view of Genesis 6.1-4? See Tertullian below
That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
1 Peter 3.18-20
Are the spirits here the fallen Angels of Gen 6.1-4 or Spirits of Men prior to Noah’s flood? Or something else all together?
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
Mark 12.24-25 (Cf. Matthew 22.29-30; Luke 20.36)
Did Christ highlight the fact that the Angels were heaven to note that those who had descended on the earth had? Or did Christ in this passage also reject the supernatural view of Genesis 6?
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Second Temple Literature
4.22 Enoch Warning to the Watchers
And he testified to the Watchers, who had sinned with the daughters of men; for these had begun to unite themselves, so as to be defiled, with the daughters of men, and Enoch testified against them all.
Jubilees 5.1-11 First Account
5 And it came to pass when the children of men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the angels of God saw them on a certain year of this jubilee, that they were beautiful to look upon; and they took themselves wives of all whom they chose, and they bare unto them sons and they were giants. 2 And lawlessness increased on the earth and all flesh corrupted its way, alike men and cattle and beasts and birds and everything that walks on the earth—all of them corrupted their ways and their orders, and they began to devour each other, and lawlessness increased on the earth and every imagination of the thoughts of all men was thus evil continually. 3 And God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt, and all flesh had corrupted its orders, and all that were upon the earth had wrought all manner of evil before His eyes. 4 And He said that He would destroy man and all flesh upon the face of the earth which He had created. 5 But Noah found grace before the eyes of the Lord. 6 And against the angels whom He had sent upon the earth, He was exceedingly wroth, and He gave commandment to root them out of all their dominion, and He bade us to bind them in the depths of the earth, and behold they are bound in the midst of them, and are kept separate. 7 And against their sons went forth a command from before His face that they should be smitten with the sword, and be removed from under heaven. 8 And He said ‘My spirit shall not always abide on man; for they also are flesh and their days shall be one hundred and twenty years’. 9 And He sent His sword into their midst that each should slay his neighbour, and they began to slay each other till they all fell by the sword and were destroyed from the earth. 10 And their fathers were witnesses (of their destruction), and after this they were bound in the depths of the earth for ever, until the day of the great condemnation, when judgment is executed on all those who have corrupted their ways and their works before the Lord. 11 And He destroyed all from their places, and there was not left one of them whom He judged not according to all their wickedness.
Jubilees 7.21-26a Second Account
For owing to these three things came the flood upon the earth, namely, owing to the fornication wherein the Watchers against the law of their ordinances went a whoring after the daughters of men, and took themselves wives of all which they chose: and they made the beginning of uncleanness. 22 And they begat sons the Nephilim, and they were all unlike, and they devoured one another: and the Giants slew the Nephil, and the Nephil slew the Elyo, and the Elyo mankind, and one man another. 23 And every one sold himself to work iniquity and to shed much blood, and the earth was filled with iniquity. 24 And after this they sinned against the beasts and birds, and all that moves and walks on the earth: and much blood was shed on the earth, and every imagination and desire of men imagined vanity and evil continually. 25 And the Lord destroyed everything from off the face of the earth; because of the wickedness of their deeds, and because of the blood which they had shed in the midst of the earth He destroyed everything. 26 ‘And we were left, I and you, my sons, and everything that entered with us into the ark
1 Enoch 6–11 (Latest 165 BC Likely prior to 200 BC)
6 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2 And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ 3 And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ 4 And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ 5 Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 6 And they were in all two hundred; who descended ‹in the days› of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 7 And these are the names of their leaders: Samîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjal, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. 8 These are their chiefs of tens.
7 And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2 And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: 3 Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. 4 And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5 And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood. 6 Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.
8 And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals 〈of the earth〉 and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. 2 And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. 3 Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, ’Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Êzêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, 〈Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun〉, and Sariêl the course of the moon. 4 And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven …
9 And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth. 2 And they said one to another: ‘The earth made †without inhabitant cries the voice of their cryings† up to the gates of heaven. 3 «And now to you, the holy ones of heaven», the souls of men make their suit, saying, “Bring our cause before the Most High.”’ 4 And they said to the Lord of the ages: ‘Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings, 〈and God of the ages〉, the throne of Thy glory (standeth) unto all the generations of the ages, and Thy name holy and glorious and blessed unto all the ages! 5 Thou hast made all things, and power over all things hast Thou: and all things are naked and open in Thy sight, and Thou seest all things, and nothing can hide itself from Thee. 6 Thou seest what Azâzêl hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were (preserved) in heaven, which men were striving to learn: 7 And Semjâzâ, to whom Thou hast given authority to bear rule over his associates. 8 And they have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins. 9 And the women have borne giants, and the whole earth has thereby been filled with blood and unrighteousness. 10 And now, behold, the souls of those who have died are crying and making their suit to the gates of heaven, and their lamentations have ascended: and cannot cease because of the lawless deeds which are wrought on the earth. 11 And Thou knowest all things before they come to pass, and Thou seest these things and Thou dost suffer them, and Thou dost not say to us what we are to do to them in regard to these.’
10 Then said the Most High, the Holy and Great One spake, and sent Uriel to the son of Lamech, and said to him: 2 〈‘Go to Noah and〉 tell him in my name “Hide thyself!” and reveal to him the end that is approaching: that the whole earth will be destroyed, and a deluge is about to come upon the whole earth, and will destroy all that is on it. 3 And now instruct him that he may escape and his seed may be preserved for all the generations of the world.’ 4 And again the Lord said to Raphael: ‘Bind Azâzêl hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dûdâêl, and cast him therein. 5 And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may not see light. 6 And on the day of the great judgement he shall be cast into the fire. 7 And heal the earth which the angels have corrupted, and proclaim the healing of the earth, that they may heal the plague, and that all the children of men may not perish through all the secret things that the Watchers have disclosed and have taught their sons. 8 And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azâzêl: to him ascribe all sin.’ 9 And to Gabriel said the Lord: ‘Proceed against the bastards and the reprobates, and against the children of fornication: and destroy [the children of fornication and] the children of the Watchers from amongst men: [and cause them to go forth]: send them one against the other that they may destroy each other in battle: for length of days shall they not have. 10 And no request that they (i.e. their fathers) make of thee shall be granted unto their fathers on their behalf; for they hope to live an eternal life, and that each one of them will live five hundred years.’ 11 And the Lord said unto Michael: ‘Go, bind Semjâzâ and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness. 12 And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is for ever and ever is consummated. 13 In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: 〈and〉 to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever. 14 And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. 15 And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers, because they have wronged mankind. 16 Destroy all wrong from the face of the earth and let every evil work come to an end: and let the plant of righteousness and truth appear: ‹and it shall prove a blessing; the works of righteousness and truth› shall be planted in truth and joy for evermore.
17 And then shall all the righteous escape,
And shall live till they beget thousands of children,
And all the days of their youth and their old age
Shall they complete in peace.
18 And then shall the whole earth be tilled in righteousness, and shall all be planted with trees and be full of blessing. 19 And all desirable trees shall be planted on it, and they shall plant vines on it: and the vine which they plant thereon shall yield wine in abundance, and as for all the seed which is sown thereon each measure (of it) shall bear a thousand, and each measure of olives shall yield ten presses of oil. 20 And cleanse thou the earth from all oppression, and from all unrighteousness, and from all sin, and from all godlessness: and all the uncleanness that is wrought upon the earth destroy from off the earth. 21 ‹And all the children of men shall become righteous›, and all nations shall offer adoration and shall praise Me, and all shall worship Me. 22 And the earth shall be cleansed from all defilement, and from all sin, and from all punishment, and from all torment, and I will never again send (them) upon it from generation to generation and for ever.
111 And in those days I will open the store chambers of blessing which are in the heaven, so as to send them down ‹upon the earth› over the work and labour of the children of men. 2 And truth and peace shall be associated together throughout all the days of the world and throughout all the generations of men.’
Damascus Document 2.16-19 (ca. 100 BC)
Because they walked in the stubbornness of their heart the Heavenly Watchers fell; they were caught because they did not keep the commandments of God. And their sons also fell who were tall as cedar trees and whose bodies were like mountains.
Testament of Reuben 5.5-7 (ca. 150 BC)
Flee, therefore, fornication, my children, and command your wives and your daughters, that they adorn not their heads and faces to deceive the mind: because every woman who useth these wiles hath been reserved for eternal punishment. 6 For thus they allured the Watchers who were before the flood; for as these continually beheld them, they lusted after them, and they conceived the act in their mind; for they changed themselves into the shape of men, and appeared to them when they were with their husbands. 7 And the women lusting in their minds after their forms, gave birth to giants, for the Watchers appeared to them as reaching even unto heaven.
Testament of Naphtali 3.3-5 (ca. 150 BC)
The Gentiles went astray, and forsook the Lord, and changed their order, and obeyed stocks and stones, spirits of deceit. 4 But ye shall not be so, my children, recognizing in the firmament, in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who made all things, that ye become not as Sodom, which changed the order of nature. 5 In like manner the Watchers also changed the order of their nature, whom the Lord cursed at the flood, on whose account He made the earth without inhabitants and fruitless.
Josephus 1.73 (Loeb Translation) (37-100 AD)
(iii.1) For seven generations these people continued to believe in God as Lord of the universe and in everything to take virtue for their guide; then, in course of time, they abandoned the customs of their fathers for a life of depravity. They no longer rendered to God His due honours, nor took account of justice towards men, but displayed by their actions a zeal for vice twofold greater than they had formerly shown for virtue, and thereby drew upon themselves the enmity of God. For many angels of God now consorted with women and begat sons who were overbearing and disdainful of every virtue, such confidence had they in their strength; in fact the deeds that tradition ascribes to them resemble the audacious exploits told by the Greeks of the giants. But Noah, indignant at their conduct and viewing their counsels with displeasure, urged them to come to a better frame of mind and amend their ways; but seeing that, far from yielding, they were completely enslaved to the pleasure of sin, he feared that they would murder him and, with his wives and sons and his sons’ wives, quitted the country.
(2) God loved Noah for his righteousness, but, as .for those men, He condemned not them alone for their wickedness, but resolved to destroy all mankind then existing and to create another race pure of vice, abridging their term of life from its former longevity to one hundred and twenty years; he therefore converted the dry land into sea. Thus were they all obliterated, while Noah alone was saved.
Philo of Alexandra On the Giants 6-7 (20 BC-50AD) (Quotes from Newman’s Ancient Exegesis of Genesis 6:2,4)
Note that Philio of Alexander (20BC-50AD) also seems to have thought the union in Genesis 6 was of angels and men, however it is at times hard to be certain because of his use of allegory. In commenting on this passage quotes the OG version of Genesis which says, Angels of God and then after quoting Genesis 6.2 notes:
“It is Moses’ custom to give the name of angels to those whom other philosophers call demons [or spirits], souls that is which fly and hover in the air. And let no one suppose that what is here said is a myth.” Later Philo noted, “So, then, it is no myth at all of giants that he [Moses] sets before us; rather he wishes to show you that some men are earth-born, some heaven-born, and some God-born.” However its very likely that Philo rejected a literal mean of this passage in any case.
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 6.1-2,4 (Extant form 7th Century AD, but quoted passage likely redates 2nd Century AD) – Quotes from Newman
Note that Shamhazi and Azael reference 1 Enoch
And it came to pass when the sons of men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and beautiful daughters were born to them, that the sons of the great ones saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, with eyes painted and hair curled, walking in nakedness of flesh, and they conceived lustful thoughts; and they took them wives of all they chose. . . . Shamhazai and Azael fell from heaven and were on earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of the great ones came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same are called men of the world, the men of renown.
Talmud (6th Century)
For the most part the interpretations in the Talmud are not supernatural, but the Talmud does in places see a supernatural view such as Yoma67b where we read of the affair of Uza and Aza’el, a reference to 1 Enoch and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan also Nid. 61a speak of Ahijah son of Shamhazai
The School of R. Ishmael taught: Azazel — [it was so called] because it obtains atonement for the affair of Uza and Aza’el.
And the Lord said unto Moses: Fear him not. Consider: Sihon and Og were brothers, for a Master stated, ‘Sihon nad Og were the sons of Ahijah the son of Shmahazai’
Justin (c.100-c.165) 2 Apology 5
[God] committed the care of men and of all things under heaven to angels whom He appointed over them. But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness. Whence also the poets and mythologists, not knowing that it was the angels and those demons who had been begotten by them that did these things to men, and women, and cities, and nations, which they related, ascribed them to god himself, and to those who were accounted to be his very offspring, and to the offspring of those who were called his brother), Neptune and Pluto, and to the children again of these their offspring. For whatever name each of the angels had given to himself and his children, by that name they called them.
Irenaeus (c.115-202) Demonstration 18-19 – Note Irenaeus Appears to Reference 1 Enoch 7
- And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them: and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness. in that they brought them the virtues of roots and herbs, dyeing in colours and cosmetics, the discovery of rare substances, love-potions, aversions, amours, concupiscence, constraints of love, spells of bewitchment, and all sorcery and idolatry hateful to God; by the entry of which things into the world evil extended and spread, while righteousness was diminished and enfeebled. 19. Until judgment came upon the world from God by means of a flood…
Tertullian (c.160-225) On Prayer 22.5 – Note 1 Corinthians 11.5
“Of course, it is on account of the angels, he says, that the woman’s head is to be covered,3 because the angels revolted from God on account of the daughters of men.”
One proposition I lay down: that those angels, the deserters from God, the lovers of women, were likewise the discoverers of this curious art, on that account also condemned by God
Lactantius Divine Institutes 2.15 (240-320)
When, therefore, the number of men had begun to increase, God in His forethought, lest the devil, to whom from the beginning He had given power over the earth, should by his subtilty either corrupt or destroy men, as he had done at first, sent angels for the protection and improvement of the human race; and inasmuch as He had given these a free will, He enjoined them above all things not to defile themselves with contamination from the earth, and thus lose the dignity of their heavenly nature. He plainly prohibited them from doing that which He knew that they would do, that they might entertain no hope of pardon. Therefore, while they abode among men, that most deceitful ruler of the earth, by his very association, gradually enticed them to vices, and polluted them by intercourse with women. Then, not being admitted into heaven on account of the sins into which they had plunged themselves, they fell to the earth. Thus from angels the devil makes them to become his satellites and attendants. But they who were born from these, because they were neither angels nor men, but bearing a kind of mixed nature, were not admitted into hell, as their fathers were not into heaven. Thus there came to be two kinds of demons; one of heaven, the other of the earth.
Sulpicius Severus (363-420) History 1.2
When by this time the human race had increased to a great multitude, certain angels,whose habitation was in heaven, were captivated by the appearance of some beautiful virgins, and cherished illicit desires after them, so much so, that filling beneath their own proper nature and origin, they left the higher regions of which they were inhabitants, and allied themselves in earthly marriages. These angels gradually spreading wicked habits, corrupted the human family, and from their alliance giants are said to have sprung, for the mixture with them of beings of a different nature, as a matter of course, gave birth to monsters.