Scholars debate and disagree over the meaning of the reference to "the sons of God" in Genesis 6:1-4. Some people read into these verses the idea that it refers to angelic beings marrying women and producing a race of giants. Christ explained that is impossible, teaching that angels don't marry and, by implication, don't produce children either (Luke 20:34-36).
Human beings are clearly the subject in Genesis 6—not angels. God said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh" (verse 3) and, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth" (verse 7, emphasis added throughout).
The "giants" in verse 4 were simply people of giant stature. Similar people are spoken of in later times, most notably Goliath and his family.
How, then, can we understand Genesis 6:1-4? Human beings are also sons of God. This is not referring to becoming spiritual sons of God through conversion, but to the fact that all people are sons of God by creation (Luke 3:38). The attitudes and actions of these "sons of God" were so wrong that they provoked God to send the Flood.
Halley's Bible Handbook raises the possibility that these sons of God were the descendants of Adam and Eve's son Seth. Seth, the Bible records, was a son in the image of Adam, who was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26; 5:1-3).
Speaking of Seth's descendants, Genesis 4:26 adds, "men began to call on the name of the Lord," a phrase that could also be rendered, "to be called after the name of the Lord"—that is, the "sons of God." If so, the women, "the daughters of men" whom these "sons of God" married, were the descendants of unrighteous Cain. By marrying these women, the sons of Seth turned from God, leading Him to say that the entire world was then corrupt (Genesis 6:5-7, 12).
An alternative explanation is that "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2 should be rendered "sons of the gods" and refers to men who were called such not in worship of the Creator, but of pagan deities. Their marriages would have been in defiance of the Creator God, as they lived contrary to His will. Indeed, in light of God's characterization of society riddled with violence (verses 11, 13), it could be that such men forcibly took the women as wives.
Regardless of which explanation is accurate, the idea that a half-spirit, half-human race resulted from angels marrying women is not what the Bible teaches.
Was Noah's Flood a local or a worldwide event?
Genesis 7:19-23 states: "And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth...So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive."
Jesus Christ confirmed that the Flood was global in scope. He said, "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:38-39).
In addition, the apostle Peter taught about a universal flood, saying, "For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water" (2 Peter 3:5-6). Clearly, he was referring to a worldwide flood.
Moreover, the Bible clearly records that the ark finally settled upon the mountains of Ararat. Could a local flood have lifted Noah's ark to the top of those mountains?
As Gleason Archer, professor of Old Testament studies, explained: "Now the most elementary knowledge of physical law leads to the observation that water seeks its own level...If the water level rose thirty thousand feet so as to submerge the peak of Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, it must have reached that level everywhere else on earth...Therefore we must conclude that the Flood was indeed universal, or else that the biblical record was grievously in error" (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 1982, p. 82).
It may be that mountains were not then as tall as Everest, but even if they were much small, the water rising above the tallest one means the whole world would still have been covered in water.
According to the Bible, the whole Flood event lasted less than a year, and it took just a few months to reach its peak and then quickly recede again.
Professor Archer comments on what he sees as confirmation of the Flood from paleontology: "Perhaps the most striking evidences of the violence of the Deluge throughout the earth are to be found in the amazing profusion of Pleistocene animals whose bones have been discovered in a violently separated state in several ossiferous [bone-laden] fissures that have been excavated in various locations in Europe and North America...
"Since no skeleton is complete, it is safe to conclude that none of these animals (mammoths, bears, wolves, oxen, hyenas, rhinoceros, deer, and many smaller mammals) fell into these fissures alive, nor were they rolled there by streams. Yet because of the calcite cementing of these heterogeneous bones together, they must necessarily have been deposited under water...
"This is just exactly the kind of evidence that a brief but violent episode of this sort would be expected to show within the short span of one year" (ibid., pp. 82-83).
Other possible evidence of a universal flood comes from studies of the ocean floor. In the 1960s and 70s, two American oceanographic vessels took long, slender core samples from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. They contained sediments of shells from plankton called foraminifera. While alive, they leave traces in their shells of the chemical composition of the water that indicate temperature and salinity. When they reproduce, the shells are discarded and fall to the bottom. A cross-section of that sea bottom carries a record of climates that are attested to go back more than 100 million years according to traditional dating methods. Every inch of core may represent as much as 1,000 years of the earth's past.
What scientists found left them astounded. Several thousand years ago, the foraminifera shells registered a sudden plunge in the salinity of the water. Dr. Cesare Emiliani, the founder of paleoceanography, notes: "The North American ice cap underwent a sudden collapse, followed by rapid melting. A huge amount of ice-melt water rushed into the Gulf of Mexico and produced a sea-level rise that spread around the world with the speed of a great tidal wave...
"We know this, because the oxygen isotope ratio of the foraminifera shells show a marked temporary decrease in the salinity of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico... There is no question that there was a flood, and there is no question that it was a universal flood" (Fred Warshofsky, "Noah, the Flood, the Facts," Reader's Digest, September 1977, p. 133).
Historian Werner Keller relates: "Among people of all races there is a variety of traditions of a gigantic and catastrophic Flood. The Greeks told the Flood story...long before Columbus many stories told among the natives of the continent of America kept the memory of a great Flood alive; in Australia, India, Polynesia, Tibet, Kashmir and Lithuania tales of a Flood have been handed down from generation to generation to the present day...It is highly probable that they all reflect the same world wide catastrophe" (The Bible as History, 1981, p. 43). Does this sound like the Flood was local? Absolutely not! VT