Ask a Theologian

by Randy Corn

My first-born son, Benjamin Randal Corn (guess who he was named after) worked for six summers as a counselor at Cumberland Youth Camp.  He once told me of a standard procedure which the camp employed when weather forced them indoors.  They would assemble the students and the support staff (usually area pastors) and have something they called, “Ask A Theologian.”  The students were given paper to submit a biblical or theological question, and these were placed in a box. The pastors would then pull a paper from the box and discuss how each of them would answer the question. Typically, the answers were pretty uniform, with the pastors coming to some sort of consensus on their answer. Disagreement, however, is often more entertaining than consensus. Benjamin realized this and would invariably see to it that the pastors would have to discuss the “sons of God and daughters of men” passage in Genesis 6!

I had not thought about this illustration of my son’s personality until recently when I came across a lengthy discussion of this issue. It is in volume two of Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 114-117). For those not familiar with this multi-volume theological work, Chafer often includes long quotes from authors who have insight on some particular issue. This may be either to agree or disagree with the author’s position.

Chafer quotes extensively from Clarence Larkin’s book The Spirit World as a champion of the view that the “sons of God” were fallen angels who had sexual union with human women.  He derives this view not so much from Genesis 6 as from Jude verses 6 and 7. Chafer comments,

Mr. Larkin draws the conclusion that the fallen angels that are in chains are under sentence because of immoral relations with women of the human race.  The ‘strange flesh’ and ‘fornication’ of Sodom and Gomorrah suggest to Mr. Larkin that the text (Jude 6, 7) aims to reveal that this is the sin of these angels that are bound” (Chafer p. 115)

Chafer goes on to write,

 Whether, as many believe, the reference is to men of the line of Seth cohabiting with women of the line of Cain, or whether it asserts that angels cohabited with women of the earth, as Mr. Larkin and others believe, probably will never be determined to the satisfaction of all concerned (Chafer p. 115).

Now, it is not my purpose to settle this issue in this post.  All I want to do is ask a question about the connection between Genesis and Jude. On the face of it, there seems to be a logical inference that Jude 6, which describes “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling” might well be guilty of some form of the sin mentioned in Jude 7 where we find the Sodomites “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire.” My question is why the sin of these angels must be connected with the illustration that follows their notice as opposed to the illustration that precedes them.

Jude 5 says, “Now, I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” While there was undoubtedly some element of sexual sin to the backsliding of the children of Israel, it would be more accurate to describe them as being in rebellion to God as illustrated by the phrase “those who did not believe” in Jude 5 and the majority of the book of Exodus. If one sees Jude 6 as controlled by Jude 5 instead of Jude 7, then the angels are pictured as being in rebellion against God, like Israel of the Exodus. Jude 6 would then be describing the original fall of these angels by following Satan in his rebellion against God described in Isaiah 14.

Does this simple observation put the issue to rest? Not by a long shot; but it does show that there is a reasonable explanation for not seeing Jude as a commentary on Genesis. I have a feeling more than one theologian at Cumberland Camp will be asked this question in the future.

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