The following is a paper I wrote identifying the "Sons of God" that modern Bible translations have confused in many places. I have not found an answer as to why this has been done or where the idea came from. Maybe by posting this someone in the blogasphere may by chance come across this and enlighten me.
Identifying the sons of God by Debbie Binder
God through His Spirit working over centuries of time, inspiring men to write and keep this written record so that all people everywhere may understand and know Him, gave the scriptures to us. However difficult it may be to translate from one language to another the translator who understands what the scripture means and understands the language receiving it should be able to make it clear. We have a lot of translations into English, they are constantly being revised and updated hoping to reach more and more readers so that they can understand God’s word.
But I have found something very troubling and I cannot understand why several popular Bibles make the same error by forcing or implying an erroneous interpretation of the term “sons of God”. It all begins with Genesis 6.
1 Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were [a]beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not [b]strive with man forever, [c]because he also is flesh; [d]nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty 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 men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
The text above is the New American Standard Version the bible I started my Christian life 35 years ago. It tried to stay true to literal word for word translation and still be readable. My only problem with it comes in the Book of Revelation where they translate the measurements of the New Jerusalem into miles and obscure the meaning of the number symbolism. But that is really minor compared to what I want to expose.
This portion of scripture is plainly saying that the sons of God married the daughters of men and had children. The [a] by the word beautiful in the footnote says ‘good’. So literally the daughters of men were good looking and the sons of God were attracted to them and married them, they were sexually attracted to them and had children with them. So the sons of God could not be angelic beings. Angels do not procreate. How do I know this? Jesus says so in Mark 12! When the Sadducees tried to ask Jesus what they thought was a trick question about marriage after the resurrection:
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not [n]understand the Scriptures or 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.”
So clearly the angels in heaven do not marry nor do they procreate which was the reason the woman in the silly question given to Jesus married all those brothers. Angels are not sexual beings, they cannot be sexually attracted to women, just as a fish has no desire to play basketball! This should be beyond obvious.
Here is what I find so troubling about newer English Bible translations they imply either outright or in footnote that the sons of God were other than human as I will show starting with the very popular New International Version published in 1984. This version is straight forward, not implying anything strange about the sons of God here.
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with[a] man forever, for he is mortal[b]; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
However in the book of Job the NIV turns the sons of God into angels.
The [a] by the word angels says in the footnote “Hebrew sons of God”. Why did they do that? They replace sons of God with angles throughout Job. Wasn’t God pointing out Job to Satan as one of those sons of God who were presenting themselves (worshiping)? Angles are Gods messengers to men. They don’t present themselves to God as God’s people do. Satan was there to accuse those who were presenting themselves to God. So here the 1984 version changes the meaning of sons of God.
Going back to Genesis 6 the New 2010 version of the NIV implies that the sons of God were something other than human.
1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with[a] humans forever, for they are mortal[b]; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
4 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.
So instead of fixing the wrong interpretation in Job they try to reconcile their error in Genesis! The NIV is not the only version that does this. Here is what the New Century Version says:
1 The number of people on earth began to grow, and daughters were born to them.2 When the sons of God saw that these girls were beautiful, they married any of them they chose.3 The Lord said, "My Spirit will not remain in human beings forever, because they are flesh. They will live only 120 years."
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days and also later. That was when the sons of God had sexual relations with the daughters of human beings. These women gave birth to children, who became famous and were the mighty warriors of long ago.
The Contemporary English Version:
1-2More and more people were born, until finally they spread all over the earth. Some of their daughters were so beautiful that supernatural beings [a] came down and married the ones they wanted. 3Then the LORD said, "I won't let my life-giving breath remain in anyone forever. [b] No one will live for more than one hundred twenty years." [c] 4The children of the supernatural beings who had married these women became famous heroes and warriors. They were called Nephilim and lived on the earth at that time and even later.
The Common English Version:
1 When the number of people started to increase throughout the fertile land, daughters were born to them. 2 The divine beings saw how beautiful these human women were, so they married the ones they chose. 3 The LORD said, “My breath[a] will not remain in humans forever, because they are flesh. They will live one hundred twenty years.” 4 In those days, giants[b] lived on the earth and also afterward, when divine beings and human daughters had sexual relations and gave birth to children. These were the ancient heroes, famous men.
The Good News Translation:
1 When people had spread all over the world, and daughters were being born,2 some of the heavenly beings[a] saw that these young women were beautiful, so they took the ones they liked.3 Then the Lord said, I will not allow people to live forever; they are mortal. From now on they will live no longer than 120 years.4 In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible implies the sons of God were other than human in the footnotes.
1 When mankind began to multiply on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man [a] were beautiful, and they took any they chose as wives [b] for themselves. 3 And the LORD said, "My Spirit will not remain [c] with [d] mankind forever, because they are corrupt. [e] Their days will be 120 years." 4 The Nephilim [f] were on the earth both in those days and afterwards, when the sons of God came to the daughters of man, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men. [a] Genesis 6:2 Or the human women [b] Genesis 6:2 Or women [f] Genesis 6:4 Possibly means "fallen ones"; traditionally giants; [Nm 13:31-33]
Here is why it is important to understand the identity of the sons of God it has to do with understanding our salvation and our relationship with God. I will be quoting scripture from the New American Standard because it doesn’t use “inclusive language”. Hebrews 1
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 [a]in these last days has spoken to us [b]in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the [c]world. 3 [d]And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and [e]upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
5 For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”?
“I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM
AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”?
“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”
7 And of the angels He says,
“WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS,
AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”
8 But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF [h]HIS KINGDOM.
9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;
THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU
WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”
“YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH,
AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;
11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;
AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT,
12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;
LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.
BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,
AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”
13 But to which of the angels has He ever said,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES
A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
How then can the sons of God be angels? Hebrews 2 says more about the relationship of God, man and angels:
5 For He did not subject to angels [g]the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one has testified somewhere, saying,
“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM?
OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?
7 “YOU HAVE MADE HIM [h]FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;
YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR,
[i]AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;
8 YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”
For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
Hebrews explains that it is through Jesus that God will give man the inheritance.
Galatians 3: 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you [f]must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery [g]leading to fear again, but you have received [h]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, [i]in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
You see the sons of God are people who have a relationship with God. In the Old Testament that relationship was established through faith in a coming salvation; in the New Testament the relationship is established in Christ, who is the salvation and will finally accomplish our physical salvation when He returns for the resurrection.