When the “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out last year I had no plans to see it. As a kid, I didn’t really read superhero comic books and so the Guardians of the Galaxy were entirely unfamiliar to me.
The movie generated quite a bit of buzz – friends (at least they’re friends according to Facebook) raved about the film. Chris Pratt moved from loveable goofball to studly action hero.
Superhero movies are not exactly my love’s thing, so I waited until the movie was at the local dollar theater. Even though Guardians had a great reputation, I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
The story of a group of rejects who save the day resonates in our culture. You can discern for yourself the gospel story within.
But how this movie relates to the gospel is not the topic of this blog post. Nor how it seems like the authors of the Marvel comics/movies (or DC for that matter) are familiar with the themes of the Christian faith.
One moment in the movie that surprised me was when Star Lord/Peter Quill’s mother referred to Peter’s dad as an “angel”. She said that Peter’s dad was a “being of pure light”. That Star Lord’s dad was of an unusual race proved advantageous at the end of the movie.
A mom that is a human and a dad that is an angel, might Marvel’s writers be familiar with a certain theological understanding of the Nephilim?
Scripture is replete with mysteries. One mystery is the identity of the Nephilim as first described in Genesis 6:1-4.
“When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 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.”
They mystery is who exactly are “the sons of God” as the “daughters of man” seems a bit more obvious. Why did this union create mighty men of renown?
One theory is that the sons of men are angels who procreated with women and as a result created giants. This is the interpretation most familiar to me.
This interpretation is based on a particular understanding of three passages, Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4, and Genesis 6:1-4.
In 2 Peter 2:4, the apostle writes, “ 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;”
And Jude in 1:6 writes something very similar to what Peter recorded, “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—“.
Those who believe that the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6 are Angels use these epistles to support their position. They argue that according to 2 Peter 2:4, the angels “sinned” by procreating with women and were then punished, and continue to be punished, until judgment day. Jude 1:6 offers even more support for their position, they believe, because the phrases “their own position of authority” and “left their proper dwelling” must mean that they left heaven and took women as mates.
I don’t agree with this position and have the support of two prominent theologians, R.C. Sproul and Wayne Grudem.
There are several problems with the idea that the “sons of God” are angels who procreated with the “daughters of men”.
First, to procreate one must have the ability to reproduce. Scripture never indicates that angels reproduce; in other words, that angels make more angels.
Jesus, in Matthew 22:30 says that angels do not marry. The next step is to deduce that angels then do not procreate.
The second issue is in regards to the image of God. Humanity is unique in its creation in the image of God. This privilege is not shared with any other created being. In who’s image would the descendents of an angel-human offspring be created?
Last, there is no plan for redemption for the angels. But redemption from sin is available to humans. God demonstrated his love for humanity in while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. In addition to being made in God’s image, redemption through the blood of Christ is unique to humanity. So again, what would be the redemption plan for descendents of angels and humans? Is redemption available through Christ for their human part or denied because of their angelic lineage?
We can reject the idea that the Nephilim are the result of a union between angel and human because of the inability for angels to reproduce, the uniqueness of humanity as created in God’s image, and the issue of redemption.
So then who are the sons of God in Genesis 6?
Deuteronomy 14:1 uses the phrase “sons of God” to describe people who are in right relationship with God – as those who are members of God’s people.
Theologian Wayne Grudem explains, “the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6:2 are men who are righteous in their imitation of the character of their heavenly Father, and the ‘daughters of men’ are the ungodly wives whom they marry” (Systematic Theology, 414).
R.C. Sproul makes his case here: “Who Are the Sons of God and Daughters of Men in Genesis 6:1-5?” He contends that the sons of God are the righteous descendents of Seth and the daughters of men are the unrighteous descendents of Cain.
As a result, we can faithfully conclude that the ancestry of the Nephilim is more pedestrian than it is Hollywood, and is more human than angelic.