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« I Trained Some Christians on the Pro-life Position and Had Them Walk Up to Pro-choice Students... | Main | Right Questions or Right Answers? »

June 19, 2009


hey, love your radio show. one suggestion though: can the podcasts be separated by hours? so one mp3 for hour 1, another for hour 2, etc.

I first saw that done on Dennis Prager's show and thought it's useful. While i would and do listen to them all, it's easier to mark the ones that's worth revisiting or archiving.

thanks! keep up the great work!

Why don't you just get yourself an mp3 splitter program and split it the way you wish. I'm sure you can google a freeware version of a program or go to and do a search there.

I just thought I might throw in some thoughts regarding Ben Witherington's generous appearance on the show. First of all, I very much enjoyed his and Greg's discussion. But there was this one little part at 47 minutes and 38 seconds into the podcast when Greg asked Ben "did the women at the tomb at Jesus resurrection meet an angel or a man?"...referring to it as an alleged contradiction that Bart Ehrman had put forth in his writings. Ben responds by saying that this was a "silly" contradiction and begins to site Daniel as example of when angels are frequently called men in the Old Testament. And then he says that a "good example of this would be in Genesis 6:1-4 when the sons of God came down and mated with the daughters of men. Now that phrase 'sons of God' there is a reference to angels."

And it was at this point that I was just like, "Aaah come on Ben, now you know better than to refer to angels there. So I wanted to offer some thoughts of the "sons of God = angels" view.

Genesis 6: Who are the sons of God?

"The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose." Genesis 6:2

3 Main interpretations:
1.This is a reference to the Godly line of Seth, and the ungodly line of Cain. The preceeding chapter (5) just finished discussing the line of Seth.

2.These were powerful kings or princes of the age; Cainite kings (not Caananite kings); kings who descended from Cain. These were mighty men who were descendents of Cain who went into the daughters of men.

3.This refers to (fallen) angels.


This idea goes back to Justin Martyr, tertullian, cyprian, Ambrose. They made the arguments that these were fallen angels and they made it based on 2 main principles:

1.That that term, “sons of God” meant angels everywhere else that it was found. And everywhere else, by the way, is in Job. 3 times in Job, he talks about the “sons of God” and it’s a reference to angels. It’s a reference to angels when they came before God…”the sons of God” came before God and there were these accusations that are being made. He refers to the “sons of God.” So this argument goes something like this:

i. Well because in scripture when we see “sons of God, specifically when we see it in job, it refers to angels. Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7

ii. Therefore a plain reading of the text would have to lead us to conclude that this is a reference to angels.

iii. Also they make the argument based on some New Testament allusions: (1) For example in 2 Peter chapter 2 & (2) also in Jude verses 6 & 7 there are allusions to angels in those passages, and they argue that those allusions to angels in 2 Peter and Jude bolster the argument that what’s being spoken of in Genesis chapter 6 is actually fallen angels.

b. 3 problems with this argument that they were angels:

i. A linguistic problem

ii. A contextual problem

iii. A theological problem with this argument.

Linguistic Problem:

1.“Sons of God occurs 5 times in the Old Testament, only 5.

a.3 instances in Job; and remember Job is “wisdom literature.”

2. Two instances in Genesis 6, which is “the law” (Torah) which may or may not refer to angels. This seems far from conclusive.

3. 5 times “bÿne-ha’elohim” is used. 3 times in Job…and remember Job is wisdom literature and you don’t interpret wisdom literature the same way you interpret “the law”.

a.Wisdom literature is poetic for instance: Job, psalms, proverbs, ecclesiates, Song of Solomon. These are wisdom literature…symbolic literature. So often times you’ll find a word used in the psalms, or a certain word used in Song of Solomon, that when you go to another part of literature, is not used in the same way, or in the same sense. So that seems a little inconclusive.

b. Secondly it’s used here in Genesis 2 times, and in Genesis, there are 3 major positions as to what it means. So if in Genesis, it’s not straightforward conclusive, you can’t say, “Because we know what Job was talking about because of Job’s context, and his context being clear, we can therefore come to “the Law” and know that Moses was trying to communicate the same thing that Job was trying to communicate. That’s possible but it’s far from conclusive. So there’s a linguistic problem there.

v. Contextual Problem

1.There’s no mention of judgment against the angels for their actions. As we read in the text, when God gets upset for example. Look at what happens in v.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 evil, only evil continually.”

a.So these angels commit a great sin and God says, “I’m mad at man!?” There’s a contextual problem there. The angels come in and seduce these women and God goes, “I’m gonna get rid of man!”...not punishing angels.

2. There’s nothing to stop the process from reoccuring in the future…if this is the case. And if angels inter-married with mankind and procreated with women, and God somehow strikes out in judgment against this, and doesn’t judge the angels for it, and doesn’t change anything in the world for it, then what’s to stop it from ever happening again? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. It’s never dealt with. Thus, God wouldn’t have addressed the real problem.

3. Here’s the other issue. There’s no mention of angels anywhere in Genesis chapters 1 through chapter 6. There’s been no mention of angels, and now all of a sudden, 6 chapter into the bible & there’s no mention of angels, but now there’s a cryptic reference, & contextually we want to say with, “This is a reference to angels.”? So there’s a contextual problem.

vi.Theological Problem

1. Angels do not marry. Jesus says this specifically in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The text in Genesis 6:2 says, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.” Jesus says Angels don’t marry, but Genesis 6 says the “Sons of God” took wives. So there’s a theological problem here. Somehow, if these were angels, and we take Jesus words at face value, then it seems Jesus doesn’t know how to interpret scripture.

2. Next, everything in creation reproduces, how?…after its own kind. We’ve seen that over, and over, and over in the first 6 chapters of Genesis. Everything in creation reproduces after its own kind. This is, in fact, our argument against Darwinian evolution. But we’re not talking about different species reproducing not after their own kind, but we’re talking about different types of beings, heavenly and earthly beings reproducing with one another.

3. Angels cannot reproduce with humans because angels are non-corporeal beings (from what I gather, this is speculation though).

4. Angels don’t reproduce at all. At least we're not told that God gave them the charge to multiply.


a.Proposed by Meredith Klein (a man): was not proposed until the 1960’s to my knowledge.

i. First it fits the context of 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[a] 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."

2. This would go a long way in explaining that first paragraph.

3. Avoids the theological problem of angelic marriage.

4. It leaves it the door open for angels having possessed these mighty men.

a. Problem #1: Klein’s arguments are based on extra-biblical writings, for example, Gilgamesh Epic.

b. Not mentioned directly in the text

c. No mention of monarchs at this time in. In extra-biblical literature, you find talk about monarchs, but in Genesis 1-6 there’s no mention that the line of Cain had kings, none whatsoever. Not to mention, if these were “kings”, there’s a lot more clear way for moses to say that than just this cryptic reference, “the sons of God.”


a. The promised seed we see in Genesis 3:15. Remember the curse on the serpent, the first proclamation of the gospel:

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."

That’s in chapter 3. Well then what do we see after that in chapter 4, the corruption of Cain. So which seed then is Cain? He’s the seed of the serpent. So is the seed of the serpent a physical seed? No, they’re talking spiritually. But here’s the other interesting thing. When it says, “the seed of the woman”, is it talking physical seed or spiritual seed? The answer is “yes”. Physical seed, yes…spiritual seed, yes? Well what do you mean by that? Well Cain was the physical seed of the woman, but was he spiritually the seed of the woman that was promised in Genesis 3:15? No. So somehow there was going to be this spiritual seed and this physical seed, and then after that, we see in Genesis chapter 5 the preservation of the spiritual seed through the line of Seth, not the line of Cain. So:
•Genesis chapter 3 – The promise of the seed
•Genesis chapter 4- We see the enmity between the two seed that was promised
•Genesis chapter 5-We see the preservation of the Godly seed through the line of Seth, as opposed to the line of Cain.
•And in the very next chapter (6)there’s this reference to the Godly seed intermarrying with the ungodly seed.
So it seems at least to me like the best explanation is that the “sons of God” refers to the Godly line of Seth, and the “daughters of men” as a reference to the ungodly line of Cain. And the Godly line is preserved through Noah. And Noah is the link between Genesis chapter 5 and Genesis chapter 6. Where does Genesis chapter 5 end? We’re talking about the Godly seed and the preservation of the godly seed, and it ends with Noah.

Wilson, we do have a podcast with chapters. You should be able to find it on iTunes.

On the topic of how the podcast is formatted, the other thing I would like to suggest is that you treat the commercial breaks the same when Greg is interviewing someone for an hour as when he is taking questions. On the enhanced podcast I always skip forward through the ads during breaks but if I do that on a show like when he interviewed Ben, it skips me all the way to the end of the hour.

Paul, thanks for that concise but thorough presentation, it was as honest and evenhanded as anything I've read that dealt with contrasting views of a topic.

Thank you for the encouragement Brad! I appreciate you checking that out. I had hoped to get some feedback on those ideas to see if they would pass muster with anyone else. They seemed to make good sense to me.

I called in to the show yesterday (6/28), to challenge the Koukl's assertion that Papias reliably established the author of Mark to be a companion of St. Peter, and wrote down everything Peter said. He just kept referring to evangelical scholar Ben Witherington as providing this statement in a blog and being a reliable guy.

I found the Witherington reference, and it is about as misleading as Koukl's. Witherington states on this very issue, "But there is in addition external evidence as well on this matter from a reliable tradition in Papias. It says the following:" and then quotes what appears to be from the works of Papias himself.

First, per the passage, Papias is getting his source from some John (not the apostle) and does not indicate what that John got is info. Second, the passage is really from Eusebeus writing still some 150 years after Papias supposedly wrote the passages Eusebeus quotes. That is not to say that Eusebeus did not have access to reliable copies of Papias' writings, but rather to point out the misleading nature of what Koukl (and Witherington) are saying. Finally, Koukle asserted the passage from Papias is early second century. I thought it was mid to late 2nd century. We both were incorrect. While Papias is thought to have lived to around 160, the passage is generally dated around 130 - about 50-55 years after Mark was written.

My only point is that it appeared Koukl was playing fast and loose with the facts. My concern is that too many listeners just accept whatever the host says and fail to really challenge such assertions.

On Koukl's behalf, he was extremely hospitable, I really liked how he have each of his callers time to really delve into the issues. I liked the format very much.


Papias probably was a disciple of the apostle John. Multiple sources who had access to his writings say so, and the one source who argues otherwise, Eusebius, is inconsistent on the issue. I've discussed this subject in depth in threads here and here.

When Papias discusses the gospel of Mark (Eusebius, Church History, 3:39), he refers to his source as "the elder", a term that the early Christians associated with the apostle John (2 John 1, 3 John 1). As I've argued elsewhere, it's unlikely that there was some other prominent early church leader named John with whom the apostle was confused. The John known by Papias probably was the apostle, the son of Zebedee.

Regardless, Papias' source seems to be somebody older than he was, since he refers to the individual as "the elder" and considers him a source of information on events of earlier times. Papias lived in the late first century and into the second century. He was a contemporary of the apostles. The timing of his life is more significant than the timing of his writing.

But there's no good reason to date what he wrote a few decades into the second century. Greg Koukl referred you to Richard Bauckham's Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006), and Bauckham discusses the dating of Papias' work there (pp. 13-14). Even if we accept the suggestion of Philip of Side, to the effect that Papias wrote sometime during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, that emperor was in power from 117 to 138. The assumption that Papias wrote around 130 or 135 is a rough estimate based on the assumption that Philip of Side is reliable on this matter. Bauckham doubts his reliability. And Hadrian came to power in 117, so a date under Hadrian could be as early as that year. But even if Papias did write as late as, say, the year 135, the fact remains that he lived earlier and was drawing information from his earlier experiences.

People pass on information from generation to generation. If the gospel of Mark had initially circulated anonymously, or had initially been attributed to some other author, we wouldn't expect to see universal agreement, from Papias and his source onward, concerning Mark's authorship of the document. But that's what we do see. You can speculate that all of the sources were mistaken, but that isn't the most likely scenario.

The traditional gospel authorship attributions are widely attested early on. We have testimony from sources representing a wide diversity of locations, personalities, theologies, etc. Multiple heretical, Jewish, and pagan sources corroborate the traditional attributions in some manner. See here. We know that both the early Christians and their early enemies were willing to question document attributions and discuss such controversies publicly, as we see with 2 Peter and Revelation, for example. The authorship of Mark wasn't disputed.

And there's significant internal evidence for authorship by Mark. See, for example, here.

Here's some of the other relevant evidence:

"All four Gospels are anonymous in the formal sense that the author's name does not appear in the text of the work itself, only in the title (which we will discuss below). But this does not mean that they were intentionally anonymous. Many ancient works were anonymous in the same formal sense, and the name may not even appear in the surviving title of the work. For example, this is true of Lucian's Life of Demonax (Demonactos bios), which as a bios (ancient biography) is generically comparable with the Gospels. Yet Lucian speaks throughout in the first person and obviously expects his readers to know who he is. Such works would often have been circulated in the first instance among friends or acquaintances of the author who would know who the author was from the oral context in which the work was first read. Knowledge of authorship would be passed on when copies were made for other readers, and the name would be noted, with a brief title, on the outside of the scroll or on a label affixed to the scroll. In denying that the Gospels were originally anonymous, our intention is to deny that they were first presented as works without authors. The clearest case is Luke because of the dedication of the work to Theophilus (1:3), probably a patron. It is inconceivable that a work with a named dedicatee should have been anonymous. The author's name may have featured in an original title, but in any case would have been known to the dedicatee and other first readers because the author would have presented the book to the dedicatee....In the first century CE, most authors gave their books titles, but the practice was not universal....Whether or not any of these titles originate from the authors themselves, the need for titles that distinguished one Gospel from another would arise as soon as any Christian community had copies of more than one in its library and was reading more than one in its worship meetings....In the case of codices, 'labels appeared on all possible surfaces: edges, covers, and spines.' In this sense also, therefore, Gospels would not have been anonymous when they first circulated around the churches. A church receiving its first copy of one such would have received with it information, at least in oral form, about its authorship and then used its author's name when labeling the book and when reading from it in evidence exists that these Gospels were ever known by other names." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 300-301, 303)

"Nevertheless the fact remains that it is utterly improbable that in this dark period, at a particular place or through a person or through the decision of a group or institution unknown to us, the four superscriptions of the Gospels, which had hitherto been circulating anonymously, suddenly came into being and, without leaving behind traces of earlier divergent titles, became established throughout the church. Let those who deny the great age and therefore basically the originality of the Gospel superscriptions in order to preserve their 'good' critical conscience, give a better explanation of the completely unanimous and relatively early attestation of these titles, their origin and the names of authors associated with them. Such an explanation has yet to be given, and it never will be. New Testament scholars persistently overlook basic facts and questions on the basis of old habits....Another comment on the name Matthew: apart from the first Gospel, to which he gives his name, Matthew plays no role in primitive Christianity. He appears only in the lists of apostles. He is only mentioned rather more frequently at a substantially later date in apocryphal writings on the basis of the unique success of the Gospel named after him. That makes it utterly improbable that the name of the apostle was attached to the Gospel only at a secondary stage, in the first decades of the second century, somewhere in the Roman empire, and that this essentially later nomenclature then established itself everywhere without opposition. How could people have arrived at this name for an anonymous Gospel in the second century, and how then would it have gained general recognition?...the First Gospel [Matthew] already established itself quickly and tenaciously in the church at the beginning of the second century...this writing [the gospel of Mark], quite novel in earliest Christianity, managed to establish itself in the communities and to be used extensively by such self-confident authors as Luke and the author of the First Gospel - in the case of Matthew around eighty percent and of Luke more than sixty percent - only because a recognized authority and not an anonymous Gentile Christian, i.e. a Mr. Nobody in the church, stood behind it....Therefore nothing has led research into the Gospels so astray as the romantic superstition involving anonymous theologically creative community collectives, which are supposed to have drafted whole writings." (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], pp. 55, 71-72, 80-81)


I posted a response to you, and my response didn't appear at first, then appeared, then disappeared. The same thing happened in another thread. Maybe it's because the post is too long. I don't know. Regardless, I've posted my response to you at my own blog:

The comments to this entry are closed.