Pages 7-9: autumn 1991
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Farrell Till alleges Genesis 6:1-4 proves the book of Genesis contains a
mixture of mythology. In fact, Till has simply misread the passage. What is
the meaning of Genesis 6:1-4?
Science confirms the unitary origin of the human species in reports of
experiments that validate Genesis 3:20, wherein Eve is named the mother of
all living. All women now living on the earth derive from but one common
In the May 13, 1985, issue of The New Yorker, Alex Shoumatoff demon-
strated the "diamond shape" of human genealogy. This is true since ancient
cultures did not have the distance-conquering automobiles and conveyances
that modern man possesses.
Adam Clarke in his admired commentary concludes that the phrase "sons
of God" certainly cannot mean (as skeptics desire) "sons of gods." The
polytheistic presupposition Mr. Till brings to his reading makes him stumble
over the passage and so misunderstand its true meaning.
What is meant by "sons of God"? These are the descendants of righteous
Abel. Who are the daughters of men? These are the offspring of evil Cain.
Such a reading makes much more sense than the skeptical skullduggery Till's
essay engages in.
Genesis 6:4 causes much trouble for Mr. Till, especially when it comes to
"nephilim in the earth." The root word here is naphal and means to fall. The
King James translators followed the Septuagint and thus "giants." We do not
have inspired translations, but we do have inspired texts.
Mr. Till cites Numbers 13:32-33 where the word Nephilim is associated
with people of great stature, but the correct meaning of the word is, among
other things, to fall upon. Hence, the "sons of Anak" were men of violence
and perhaps inclined to banditry and such like.
Genesis 6:11 says the earth was filled with violence. Thus is explained
the Nephilim that Mr. Till transforms into giants to suit his polytheistic
Furthermore, the rebellion of the angels (Jude 6) must be separated from
the sexual crimes of Sodom in Jude 7. The reason Mr. Till is a skeptic and
not a saint today appears to be primarily due to a massive misreading of the
text and too much study of noninspired works such as the spurious book of
I pray the day will come when Farrell Till returns to the faith and again
preaches the truth from the book of books, the Holy Bible.
(Steve Gunter's address is 1202 Royal Drive, Bentonville, AR 72712.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: I was tempted to forego my usual editorial rejoinder and
just let the glaring inadequacy of Mr. Gunter's "rebuttal" speak for itself.
Of ten fundamentalist preachers and writers who were sent advanced copies of
"If It Walks Like a Duck..." Mr. Gunter was the only one who accepted our
invitation to write a rebuttal. Since the offer was made and he at least made
the effort, we decided to publish his response.
Mr. Gunter sorely needs to explain his allusion to scientific confirmation
of "the unitary origin of the human species" that he claims "validates Genesis
3:20 wherein Eve is named the mother of all living." If he meant the findings
of biochemists Vincent Sarich and Allan Wilson, whose studies in mitochondrial
DNA have traced the ancestry of all humans back to one woman, he needs to
take another look at the data. Their studies were based on the assumption of
a 2 to 4 percent steady rate of mutation in mitochondrial DNA every million
years. Since mitochondrial enzymes are carried in the ovum but not the
sperm, Sarich's and Wilson's DNA "clock" was able to trace human ancestry
back to a single woman who had lived 200,000 years ago. I wonder if
Gunter is willing to accept that date. The same DNA clock indicates that the
hominid line that eventually produced "Eve" had diverged 5 million years ago
from the primates that chimpanzees and gorillas evolved from. Is Gunter
willing to accept that finding? If not, he has no business citing scientific
"discoveries" whose major conclusions he rejects. At any rate, the last thing
Mr. Gunter should be doing is appealing to science to prove the accuracy of
the Genesis record. He will find himself in a peck of trouble if he keeps
I wonder why he even referred to "the unitary origin of the human spe-
cies." What relevance does it have to the issue we are supposed to be dis-
cussing? All humans have descended from one woman; therefore, the Genesis
writer could not have believed that angels once intermarried with human
women. Is that what he was trying to say? If so, he will have to explain
his logic to me, because I can't see any possible reasoning principle to base
that conclusion on. Surely, he doesn't think that I believe angels and human
women actually did marry. I believe only that the Genesis writer thought
that such marriages did occur. But even if angels and women had in fact
married as the Genesis writer obviously believed, the mitochondrial DNA
studies would still be irrelevant to the issue. Mitochondrial DNA can be
transmitted only by females, and in the mixed marriages of Genesis 6, the
angels had assumed the male role in reproduction. So why did Gunter wag
this into the debate?
He spoke of Adam Clarke's "admired commentary," but he didn't tell us
anything about who admires it and what that admiration is supposed to mean.
He didn't even tell us Clarke's grounds for concluding that beni ha-elohim in
Genesis 6:2 could not mean "sons of the gods"; he just told us that Clarke
had concluded this and apparently expected us to accept it with no support-
ing explanation. I suspect that Mr. Gunter is too accustomed to speaking to
gullible pulpit audiences who buy everything he says without demanding
Clarke's commentary is widely used by fundamentalist preachers, so that
alone speaks volumes about what one can expect to find in it when the issue
of inerrancy is at stake. One has to wonder, then, just how naive Mr.
Gunter is to think that the mere citing of what a "commentary" says is suffi-
cient to settle an issue as complex as this one. I can cite Bible commentaries
that agree with my position, so what does that prove? The Revised English
Bible was translated by a committee of reputable Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic
scholars, and they translated beni ha-elohim in Genesis 6 as "sons of the
gods." That surely carries more scholastic weight than what a single una-
bashedly fundamentalist commentator
has said on the matter.
Gunter accused me of "transform(ing)" the Nephilim into giants to suit my
"polytheistic presuppositions." In so doing, he completely ignored my analy-
sis of the word nephilim, which showed that its usage in the OT was clearly
associated with giantism. If I have "transformed" the Nephilim into giants, I
am in good company, because the translators of several versions (KJV, GNB,
Septuagint, Amplified, Confraternity, Revised Berkeley, Lamsa's, and Living
Bible) rendered the word giants. In past articles, I have reminded readers
that the Holy Spirit (according to the inerrancy doctrine) must have held the
Septuagint in high regard, because he frequently directed New Testament
writers to quote it. How then can Gunter discredit it as he did by faulting
the KJV translators for "follow(ing) the Septuagint"? If the Septuagint was
good enough for the Holy Spirit, why shouldn't it have been good enough for
the KJV translators?
As for my "polytheistic presuppositions," are we to assume that Mr.
Gunter's hermeneutic approach to this passage was completely free of presup-
positions? I suspect that if he examined his motives closely enough he would
find at least a smidgen of predisposition to the inerrancy doctrine in his
denial of angels and giants in this Genesis passage.
Gunter told us that the sons of God in this passage were merely "the
descendants of righteous Abel" and that the daughters of men were "the
offspring of evil Cain." But what evidence did he offer to prove this theory?
None whatsoever! It was simply an arbitrary pronouncement. Anyone with
experience in trying to reason with bibliolaters knows that they are good at
making arbitrary pronouncements to resolve discrepancies in the Bible. The
only problem is that arbitrary pronouncements prove nothing.
One has to wonder, however, about certain implications in this pro-
nouncement. If the "sons of God" were "descendants of righteous Abel" and
"the daughters of men" were "the offspring of evil Cain," does this mean that
righteousness and wickedness are hereditary traits? If one had descended
from Abel, he was righteous; if one had descended from Cain, he was evil.
Is this what Gunter is saying? Unless the Church of Christ has changed
radically since I was in it, I don't think he will be willing to accept the idea
of hereditary good and evil. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Bible text
to indicate that Cain lived an evil life after his exile for killing his brother.
Certainly, there is nothing to suggest that his offspring were any more evil
than the offspring of Adam's and Eve's other children. So just what is Gunt-
er's basis for saying that "such a reading (sons of God = descendants of
righteous Abel, and daughters of men = offspring of evil Cain) makes much
more sense than the skeptical skullduggery Till's essay engages in"? If
completely groundless assumption makes more sense than documented critical
analysis, I suppose he is right.
Gunter accused me of "stumbl(ing) over the passage," but if anyone has
stumbled over it, he has. Genesis 6:1 does not say, "And it came to pass
that when the offspring of Cain began to multiply on the face of the ground
and daughters were born to them, etc." It says that "when men (people,
NRSV) began to multiply on the face of the ground and daughters were born
to them...." Gunter is doing a lot of stumbling to get only the offspring of
Cain from the word men in this verse. The truth is that the passage says
nothing at all about either Cain or Abel. Gunter's "explanation," as I said, is
Gunter asserted that "the rebellion of the angels (Jude 6) must be sepa-
rated from the sexual crimes of Sodom in Jude 7," but why must they be
separated? Jude certainly didn't separate them. After describing the fate of
the rebellious angels in verse 6, Jude said, "Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah
and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as THEY, indulged in
sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, etc." (v:7). Does Gunter
know what "in the same manner" means? Can't he see that the antecedent of
the pronoun they has to be the angels in verse 6? Jude was obviously
saying that the people of Sodom in indulging in sexual immorality and pur-
suing unnatural lust had done in the same manner as THEY, the rebellious
angels just referred to. If not, why not?
That indulgence in sexual immorality was the sin of these fallen angels
was made very clear in 1 Enoch and the other apocryphal works cited in my
article. Gunter tried to dismiss the apocryphal references by a simple
assertion that the book of
Enoch was "spurious," so he apparently holds the book in considerably less
esteem than did Jude who both alluded to its judgment of fallen angels and
quoted it directly: "And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam,
PROPHESIED..." (V:14). This introduced a direct quotation from 1 Enoch
1:9, and the way that Jude quoted it (1) ascribed the authorship of the book
to Enoch, the seventh-generation descendant of Adam, who was translated
directly to heaven, and (2) attributed prophetic abilities to the author of the
book. Mr. Gunter cannot dismiss the impact of this by just crying, "Spuri-
ous!" In the first place, if by "spurious" he means "lacking authenticity,"
then 1 Enoch is no more spurious than Genesis, because no reputable Bible
scholar believes that Genesis was actually written by Moses.
Whether 1 Enoch is "spurious" or not is beside the point. I quoted the
book and other apocryphal works simply to show that a legend about the
intermarriage of angels and human women was widely believed when the book
of Genesis was written. That fact and the striking parallel in the wording of
Genesis 6:1 and 1 Enoch 6:1 must be dealt with. Gunter dealt with neither,
and he didn't because he can't. Genesis 6:1-4 was deeply rooted in mythology
as were the creation, the flood, the tower of Babel and most of the other sto-
ries in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. To deny this is to deny the
We still have copies of the Laws-Till Debate. After challenging Farrell
Till to a written debate on the inerrancy question, James H. Laws, Jr., a
Church-of-Christ preacher in the Spiritual Sword faction, quit after only
three exchanges. The fifty pages that were exchanged prior to his with-
drawal will explain why. Available at publishing cost, $2.25 ppd.
The Jackson-Till Debate on Bible inerrancy is also available. Sixty-six
pages, $2.25 ppd.
Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled shows that popular "prophecies"
cited to prove Bible inerrancy are failures or misapplications of OT scrip-
tures. Thirty-eight pages, $2.50 ppd.
All four 1990 issues of TSR are available at $1 per copy.
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