I didn’t get as far as Genesis 4 before encountering some thorny issues with rewording the Bible before doing a theological pass, but once I hit Genesis 6 it became obvious that something was wrong with the process. Allow me to illustrate; the problem verse for today is Genesis 6:4.
|There were giants in the earth in those days: yea, and after that the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they had borne them children, these were mighty men, which in old time were men of renown.||(GNV/1599)|
|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.||(KJV)|
|The Nephilim were 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 were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.||(ASV family)|
|The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.||(NIV)|
|In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.||(NLT)|
|Now giants[a] were upon the earth in those days, and also after that[b]. For when the sons of God took the daughters of men, they brought forth children unto them; they were the mighty men, which in olden times were men of renown.
b. Referring to two times (the first being the flood of Enoch).
So here’s the issue. It appears that the idea of Nephilim (rather, the word itself) doesn’t come from the KJV, but from more modern translations. And, it appears as if something was lost from those ancient translations, because a Jewish reading of the passage indicates giants is a better term than ‘nephilim’ which sounds like a type of angel (which, honestly, is probably the entire reason people think it was angels or demons). Yet, what was lost was lost before; it seems the enabling factor here was the ability for almost all major translations (save the DRA) to skip over the idea of an Enochian flood and place the mighty men after the nephilim.
How does the Stone read? Quite interestingly, in fact.
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterward when the sons of the rulers would consort with the daughters of man, who would bear to them. They were the mighty, who from old, were men of devastation.”
The Stone gives ref. to Numbers 13:33, as this was the same race that terrified Moses’ spies. From Rashi, we read their name comes from the root word “to fall” because they had fallen into great sin (ex. Gen. 6:1-2) and had also caused others to fall. (also see: Joshua 13:12, Joshua 14:15, 2 Samuel 21:15-22). Rashbam also indicates of Num. 13:33 “מן הנפילים, the original ones of which the Torah had written that they lived in antediluvian times (Genesis 6,4)” (i.e. Nephilim) — such that the Nephilim were the mighty sons of the kings and rulers.”
Also see Rashi on Genesis 14:13 and many other sources.
So how are we going to deal with this? Numbers 13:33 indicates we can refer to the sons of Nephilim as Nephilim. However from Stone (and many sources) we know the Nephilim were the kings and queens, the rulers of the age, who had amassed great wealth and power — people who had become like Nimrod (or worse) from later times. We know from these sources that this passage is absolutely not talking about angels or demons. We also know this because angels were not created male and female (ex. cherubim) and from other sources.
It is not a problem for Jewish sources to point to an Enochian flood. What about Christian sources? Will they counter this by claiming ignorance of the oral law? This is not possible. Jude 14-15 reads “14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (KJV)
Therefore by Jewish or Christian oral tradition we see that the flood of Enoch’s time is an accepted tradition, and therefore, there is meaning to state this in the time of the Nephilim.
There is another reference in Ezekiel 32:27, to “gib·bō·w·rîm, nō·p̄ə·lîm” (‘the mighty, the fallen’) or ‘fallen warriors’ which seems to be a reference to the ‘mighty men of old’ or ‘the giants’ (as nephilim).
What’s the oral tradition? From Wikipedia, “…a long-held view among some Christians is that the “sons of God” were the formerly righteous descendants of Seth who rebelled, while the “daughters of men” were the unrighteous descendants of Cain, and the Nephilim the offspring of their union. This view, dating to at least the 1st century CE in Jewish literature as described above, is also found in Christian sources from the 3rd century if not earlier, with references throughout the Clementine literature, as well as in Sextus Julius Africanus, Ephrem the Syrian and others. Holders of this view have looked for support in Jesus’ statement that “in those days before the flood they [humans] were … marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:38).
Some individuals and groups, including St. Augustine, John Chrysostom, and John Calvin, take the view of Genesis 6:2 that the “Angels” who fathered the Nephilim referred to certain human males from the lineage of Seth, who were called sons of God probably in reference to their prior covenant with Yahweh (cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:5); according to these sources, these men had begun to pursue bodily interests, and so took wives of the daughters of men, e.g., those who were descended from Cain or from any people who did not worship God.
This also is the view of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, …”
This reference to the ‘sons of God’ makes a lot of sense seeing as how it is also the primary argument for the rulers idea in Stone and other sources.
Let’s read Genesis 6:1-4 again with this in mind, worked into the translation:
1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2 that the sons of God[a] saw the daughters of men, that they were fair[b]; and they took for themselves wives from among anyone they saw fit[c].
the statement here is that the ‘sons of god’ took from ‘among anyone they saw fit’. This could in fact indicate that they performed inter-religious marriages.
4 Now giants[a] were upon the earth in those days, and also after that[b]. For when the sons of God took the daughters of men, they brought forth children unto them; they were the mighty men, which in olden times were men of renown.
Now, verse 4 makes more sense! It is a continuation and explanation of verses 1 and 2. It is all part of the same story — which makes sense. Also, Genesis 6:9 makes more sense now; Why did Noah find favor in God’s eyes? Why was he righteous? He walked with God, and was righteous, but he was also (specifically) perfect in his generations! Thus, if the above theory is true, it certainly fits the verses as we read them,
What does Rashi say?
(2) on ‘sons of God’: the sons of the nobles (“בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים”), the sons of the princes (targumim) and the judges (Gen. Rabbah 26:5). Another explanation: בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים are the princes who go as messengers of the Omnipresent. They too mingled with them (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 22). Every אֱלֹהִים in Scripture is an expression of authority, as seen in (ex.) Exodus 4:16 “And you shall be to him as a god (לֵאלֹהִים)”; (ibid. 7:1): “See, I have made you a god (אֶלֹהִים).”
Thus, we have what appears to be conclusive proof that 6:2 is referring to the fallen rulers at the time.
We also note that Rashi quotes Genesis Rabbah 26 again when dealing with (4). Looking at Gen. Rabbah 26, we see Rabbi Simon quoted (abridged) as “And it was, when men begun (Gen. 6:1) – said Rabbi Simon: In three places this language is used, and it means rebellion. (Gen. 4:26); (Gen. 10:8); (Gen. 11:6). This is good information on the underlying Hebrew grammar and meaning.
The rest of Rashi’s commentary indicates that these sons were rebellious kings, like their fathers. In general it seems that more or less the mighty men of old are basically the same as the giants from the beginning of 6:4.
We see similar in RambaN who writes that the children were called Nephilim because they were not as mighty as their parents, who had practiced a kind of genetic selection by marrying tall females (according to their natural desire versus with a religious matchmaker).
Thus for the NSV we read as follows:
4 In the days when the Nephilim were upon the earth, and also afterward, when the sons of God took the daughters of men, who brought forth children unto them: these were the mighty men, which in olden times were men of renown.
This is a hodgepodge. I wanted to say giants, but the actual term seems to differentiate them between the first era Nephilim (is sons of God (bə·nê hā ’ĕ·lō·hîm), and the second era (post Enochian flood era) sons of God. Further there are enough ‘keywords’ here such as ‘took’ (ref. 1-2) and ‘mighty’ (ref. rebellious) that the meaning will agree with any commentary.
Conclusion? This was a difficult passage, and one that taught me that separating phase 3 and 4 entirely may in fact be the wrong approach.
It may very well be that we should start phase 1 by rewording the KJV manually, then comparing with the GNV and DRA for alternate wording, but also at the same time compare with the JPS/Stone for theological consistency. Although what seems to end up happening is we check Rashi and Rambam and everyone else trying to figure out what that theological consistency really is.
For now, we will keep Phase 2 as a GNV/DRA based comparison phase, but we will feel free to consult Rashi, Stone, Etc. on passages with difficult wording. Thankfully I didn’t mark too many of these in the first phase!
And as a final aside I would point out that phase 5 would certainly serve as a theological pass; however, I want a certain base consistency present before we start publishing the work, or early versions may retain some Christian shoehorns. It may also be possible to work from a comprehensive list of missionary passages — however, again, being thorough will add to my own personal confidence and conviction in this project even if to no one else’s.