Did Jesus Teach That Angels Cannot Marry?

Nephilim

My Th.M. thesis provides an in-depth look at this intriguing topic. It is available in print from my online store or on Amazon Kindle.

I have previously written a great deal on the sons of God and the nephilim. This was the focus of my ThM thesis, and people have asked me many questions about them. The Bible first mentions these two groups in Genesis 6:1–4 and this passage has been the subject of controversy, misinformation, and just flat out poor teaching.

The earliest view, based on documents we still have from ancient Jews and Christians, is that the sons of God were heavenly beings who married women and sired children by them. The giant offspring were called nephilim, a term that means “giants.” Other views have arisen which see the sons of God as being humans, while attempting to define nephilim to mean “fallen ones” or something similar.

I will not rehash all of the strengths and weaknesses of the various positions here. If you are interested in these details, I recommend that you go back and read my seven-part series on the subject, which was essentially a brief summary of my thesis.

In this post, I merely want to dig a bit deeper into addressing what is potentially the strongest argument against the fallen angel view.1 So this post is not meant to be a direct argument for the traditional position, rather it is primarily a critique of an argument used against the fallen angel interpretation. Those who oppose this heavenly being view often cite Matthew 22:30 or Luke 20:35–36, believing that in these passages Jesus clearly taught that angels cannot marry. If that is what He claimed in these verses, then it would certainly put an end to the notion that the sons of God (Hebrew bene ha ‘elohim) were heavenly beings, and I would abandon this view in a heartbeat. But what did Jesus really say?

Can Angels Marry?

Perhaps the most common verse used against the idea that sons of God were angelic beings is Matthew 22:30: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” At first glance, this would seem like a good argument against the fallen angel view.

A parallel passage in Mark makes the same point, but uses slightly different terminology that helps to establish the meaning. “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25). Matthew’s “in the resurrection” is obviously identical to Mark’s “when they rise from the dead.” So in response to the Sadducees’ challenge, Jesus told them that they were in error because when believers are raised in glorified bodies at the resurrection they will no longer marry or be given in marriage and will be like the angels in heaven.

Those opposed to the fallen angel view often cite these verses thinking they have proved their point that angels cannot marry and sire children. But is that really stated here? Jesus clearly stated that the angels “in heaven” do not do this, but He did not say whether they were capable of doing such a deed. Also, He specifically pointed out that the ones “in heaven” don’t do this. But what about the angels who left their proper abode and are currently being held in chains of darkness because of the sinful activity they engaged in during Noah’s day (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6)?

Clearly, the two verses from Matthew and Mark do not settle the matter, but in the parallel passage found in Luke, Jesus has more to say about this issue. At first glance, it may seem as if He spoke against the angelic view, but a closer look reveals that He may have actually acknowledged its accuracy.

Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34–36, NASB)

In this passage, Jesus corrected the Sadducees, a group within ancient Israel who denied the future resurrection of the dead. They had asked Him a theoretical question about which husband a woman would be married to “in the resurrection” if she’d had seven husbands during her lifetime. Much could be said about their attempt to deny the future resurrection and the Lord’s masterful response (He quoted one of their favorite verses to show them that they were wrong), but it is His teaching about the “sons of God” that is particularly relevant to our study here.

Jesus contrasted the “sons of this age” and “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age.” Obviously, the “sons of this age” refers to normal human beings—people who can marry and be given in marriage, just like the woman in the Sadducees’ example who had married seven times.

Those who are “considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead” are the ones who do not marry and are not given in marriage. They are the ones who “cannot die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” So in the future, when believers are resurrected (i.e., when we receive our glorified bodies), we will be sons of God and equal to angels (at least in the sense of not marrying).

Aren’t We Already Sons of God?

So what does this have to do with the sons of God and the nephilim? Perhaps nothing at all. There is not necessarily a connection between the Hebrew terms translated “sons of God” and the Greek words translated the same way. And if this is the case, then the oft-repeated assertion against the fallen angel view that all believers are sons of God would be irrelevant. And if there is a connection, then it’s very possible that the Lord’s words here support the view that the sons of God were heavenly beings who left heaven and married women.

The Greek phrase for “sons of God” is uioi tou theou, and it is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) to translate the Hebrew bene ha ’elohim in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4, but not when that same term appears in Deuteronomy 32:8, Job 1:6, 2:1, or 38:7. In those cases, the Septuagint uses “angels of God” (aggeloi theou). “Angels of God” is also used to translate the Aramaic equivalent of bene ha ’elohim found in Daniel 3:25 (bar elahin). It is obvious that Jewish translators of the Septuagint believed that the bene ha ’elohim were angelic beings.

Jesus masterfully corrected the Sadducees' rejection of the future resurrection of the dead. However, contrary to a popular claim, He did not rule out the fallen angel view of Genesis 6—He may have actually endorsed it. Image from christianity-live.audiencemedia.com

Jesus masterfully corrected the Sadducees’ rejection of the future resurrection of the dead. However, contrary to a popular claim, He did not rule out the fallen angel view of Genesis 6. In fact, He may have actually endorsed it.
Image from christianity-live.audiencemedia.com

The contrast Jesus made is the key to understanding how this passage may be relevant to the discussion. Currently, we are “people of this age” (NET) or “sons of this age” (NKJV), but upon being resurrected in glorified bodies, believers will be “equal to the angels” and will be “sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). At the resurrection our corruptible bodies put on incorruption and our mortal bodies put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53), and it is at this time that we will be like the angels. This “revealing of the sons of God” is what the whole creation longs for (Romans 8:19).

Believers are occasionally called “sons of God” or “children of God” in the New Testament. This has been one of the key arguments used by those who seek to identify the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 as simply human. Not only does this claim badly misrepresent the Hebrew phrase and the context of the passage,2 but I believe it misses how the term is nuanced in the New Testament. That is, when we are identified as “sons of God” it is essentially a claim about our future state of being, just as Jesus used the phrase in our passage. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said that the peacemakers “shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). And, as cited above, Paul wrote of “the revealing of the sons of God” as a future event (Romans 8:19).

On two occasions Paul identified Christians as “sons of God” and may have used the term to describe our present state (Romans 8:14 and Galatians 3:26). However, based on the surrounding contexts, particularly in Romans 8, it is likely that Paul used the term to describe our positional state—since our resurrection is guaranteed, one can speak of Christians as sons of God because that is our future. Even when similar terms are used for people, they seem to point to the future.3

Christians are sons of God in that we have been adopted by the Father, although the fullness of this position has not yet been entirely realized or attained. Indeed, we are co-heirs with Christ, and while that inheritance was earned by Christ’s entirely sufficient sacrifice and is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22), we are still “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:24). Perhaps we could summarize it this way: positionally, we are sons of God by adoption, but our status as sons of God will not be finalized until our revealing as the sons of God (Romans 8:19) when we put on our heavenly dwelling (2 Corinthians 5:2–4).

With this in mind, let’s revisit what Jesus told the Sadducees. He said that “those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35–36, NKJV).

Since we actually become “sons of God” in the fullest sense when we receive glorified bodies, then this term does not refer to normal humanity. It refers to individuals whose mode of existence is fit for the heavenly realm, such as angelic beings and glorified humans. Paul contrasted the believer’s current body with his future body: “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44). The use of this term is quite similar to the way ’elohim is used to refer to beings from the spiritual realm.

One of the reasons we will be equal to angels and be identified as sons of God is because we will possess a spiritual body, which is still a physical body, but one that is incorruptible and immortal—it is one dominated by the spirit rather than the flesh. As sons of the resurrection, we will be like the angels.

Conclusion

Many have argued that Jesus ruled out the fallen angel view by claiming that angels cannot marry. But this is not what He said. He stated that the angels in heaven do not marry. Furthermore, the very statement of Jesus used by many to dismiss the fallen angel view may actually support the position they seek to discredit.

The Hebrew term in the Old Testament translated as “sons of God” in English clearly refers to heavenly beings. And while there may not necessarily be a direct connection with the Greek term translated as “sons of God” in the New Testament, it is indeed interesting that it makes more sense to understand the Greek phrase as referring to those who have been resurrected in glorified bodies.


  1. In my thesis and in previous blog posts, I have referred to the traditional view of the sons of God as the fallen angel view. It would be more accurate to call it the “divine beings” view since they are called “gods” in Scripture. However, since we usually classify all heavenly beings other than God as angels, it is not necessarily inaccurate to use “Fallen Angel” as a designation. 

  2. The Hebrew phrase bene ha ’elohim is misrepresented when people take the English translation of the term (“sons of God”) and equate it with terms that seem similar when translated into English, such as “sons of the living God” in Hosea 1:10 or “sons of God” in the New Testament, which is translated from Greek. 

  3. Hosea 1:10 speaks of a time when the children of Israel will be called “sons of the living God” (Hebrew bene chay ’el) and Paul cited this passage when he wrote of God’s future plans for the Jewish people (Romans 9:26). This term is clearly not the same as bene ha ’elohim, and even if it were the same, it does not support the non-fallen angel views. In Luke 3:38, we are told that Adam was the “son of God.” The word for “son” is not in the Greek text but is added for readability. Scholars have differed on the reason for Adam being identified as such. Gavin Ortlund’s article in the most recent edition of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (December 2014) makes a compelling case that Luke’s wording should be read in light of Genesis 5:1–3 and sheds light on what it is for man to be made in the image of God. 

Worshipping the Christmas Tree? Responding to the Anti-Christmas, Anti-Easter Cult

Is it sinful to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25? A growing number of professing Christians are claiming it is, but their arguments are extremely poor.

Is it sinful to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25? A growing number of professing Christians are claiming it is, but their arguments are extremely poor.

It’s that time of year again. Many Americans will be stressed due to a frenzied schedule of shopping, ugly-sweater contests, Christmas parties, baking, and family gatherings. Meanwhile, a small, but growing and increasingly vocal group of people are making their own mark on the holiday season. I call them the Anti-Christmas Cult. Oh, they also come out at Easter time.

To be fair, I don’t really believe these people have formed a cult, but this description does not seem too far from the mark when you witness the way many of them behave when the words “Christmas” or “Easter” are used. If you are not really familiar with this group, you won’t have to look hard to find them. Actually, they will make an effort to find you to tell you how pagan and evil it is to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

I work for a ministry that uses this time of year to share the good news that the Son of God became one of us so that through His sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection, we could be saved from our sins. Every year in December we post articles that help clear up some of the misconceptions that people have about the birth of Christ as described in Matthew and Luke. We do not tell anyone that they must celebrate Christmas, but encourage those who decide to celebrate the holiday to focus on Christ rather than all the extra-biblical traditions. And every year dozens, if not hundreds of people jump all over our Facebook posts to tell everyone how pagan Christmas is and how sinful it is for people to celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year.

Many of the attacks come from people involved in what has been called the Hebrew Roots Movement. These are not Jewish people, but professing Christians who have been caught up in the idea that Christians are supposed to follow selected portions of the Mosaic Law. It’s one thing to seek to understand Old Testament teachings to gain a deeper understanding of Scripture, but these people go far beyond that. Just as the heretical Judaizers of the 1st century added works of the Law to the gospel message (making it a false “gospel”), the Hebrew Roots Movement has added arbitrarily selected elements of the Law to the Christian message.

There are some really sad elements to this movement. First and foremost, many of the folks are in danger of denying the gospel because they behave as if a person can only be saved if he follows the Law of Moses—well, at least the portions of it that they highlight (primarily the Levitical feasts and dietary laws). A brief study of Galatians should disavow them of such legalizing practices, but sadly they ignore Paul’s plain instruction in this book (see especially Galatians 5:18 and James 2:10). Second, I believe they unwittingly disparage the Jewish people through their actions—they mispronounce and misspell Hebrew names while acting as if they are true Jews. Third, they use a vast array of fallacious arguments based on careless research and misinterpretations of Scripture.

Neo-Judaizers are quite vocal in their opposition to Christmas and Easter.

Neo-Judaizers are quite vocal in their opposition to Christmas and Easter.

One of the major claims of this group is that the Bible forbids the use of Christmas trees in Jeremiah 10. This notion is an absurd interpretation of a passage that speaks against the carving and decoration of wooden idols to be worshipped. I have never heard of a Christian worshipping a tree, and I have never put up a tree in my house, but that has not stopped these folks from accusing me of violating the supposed prohibition against Christmas trees in Jeremiah 10.

I have written elsewhere to deal with many of the false claims and faulty arguments of this movement so I won’t elaborate on them here (see links at end of post for more details). I want to close this post by sharing a piece of satire I worked on with a friend a few years back. This is not directed at those who simply choose to not celebrate Christmas at this time of year; Christians have every right to not celebrate Christmas since we are not commanded to do it. But Christians also have the right to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 or on any other day of the year. This satirical article is directed at those who obnoxiously attack Christians with Jeremiah 10 whenever they hear the word “Christmas” uttered or see it posted in social media.

Seven Ways to Avoid Worshipping Your Christmas Tree
(A satirical critique of a fallacious argument against Christmas trees by Chuck and Tim)

Thus saith the LORD, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. (Jeremiah 10:2–5, KJV)

Right here in Scripture we see a clear condemnation of the abominable practice of decorating Christmas trees. Yet God is merciful. Repent, and you will be forgiven for your past transgressions.

However, the appeal to decorate a Christmas tree may be a strong one. In many cases, this pagan ritual has become so deeply entrenched in our family traditions that it can be hard to give up.

With that in mind, and with Scripture as our guide, here are seven principles you can use to continue decorating your tree, while preventing yourself from inadvertently worshipping it.

1. Know where your tree comes from.
The Bible specifically warned about one who “cutteth a tree out of the forest.” Therefore, you must obtain your tree elsewhere.
You certainly can’t risk buying one from a store. Who knows where those came from?
It’s probably best to just find a tree growing by the side of the road—far from a forest—and cut it down.

2. Cut it down the correct way.
The Bible also talks about pagans cutting down their trees “with the axe.” We must eschew this detestable instrument of demolition.
Stick with safer tools like chainsaws or laser beams.
Alternatively, you may avoid both of the pitfalls above by simply buying a fake tree.

3. Get a tree that talks and/or moves.
There is yet another advantage to purchasing a fake tree. Some of them come with a built-in speaker, allowing them to “sing” or “talk.” This would counteract the warning that trees “speak not.”
Other fake trees are mounted on a base that rotates, thus invalidating the warnings about their being unable to “move” or “go.”

Is this really what Jeremiah 10 speaks against? Only the Christmas tree is an idol that you worship.

Is this really what Jeremiah 10 speaks against? Only if the Christmas tree is an idol that you worship.

4. Be careful how you mount it.
This is one of the more important warnings. When the pagans get a Christmas tree, “they fasten it with nails and with hammers.” We must not do likewise.
Instead of hammers and nails, try using duct tape, glue sticks, or zip ties.

5. Mount it in the correct position.
The tools you use to mount your tree aren’t the only things that matter. The position of the mounted tree is also vitally important.
The Bible warns about trees that are as “upright as the palm tree.” Therefore, your tree should at the very least be mounted at a distinct angle.
But just to be safe, we’d advise mounting it completely sideways from a wall.

6. Decorate it properly.
This is probably the most obvious piece of advice, but it is extremely important. Whatever you do, do not place any gold or silver decorations on your tree!
All other colors should be fine, but there had better not be a scrap of silver tinsel on there!

7. Place presents carefully.
One final obstacle will stand in your way. When placing a present under the tree, you run the risk of accidentally bowing to it. This would be an unacceptable act of pagan worship!
Your best bet is to order presents online. Then, when delivery men show up, have them place the packages directly under the tree themselves. Thus, they will act as scapegoats, averting any wrath away from your own household.
However, you may at times have to place the packages yourself. If that is the case, I would advise holding the present behind you going backward to the tree with it, similar to how Shem and Japheth covered their father, Noah (Genesis 9:23, KJV).

We said we have seven principles for you, but we actually have one more: Learn to interpret your Bible in context.

Whether you choose to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 or choose not to celebrate it, serve the Lord wholeheartedly in whatever you are doing that day and every other day of the year.

Here are links to my responses to some of the other arguments against celebrating Christmas:

Common Misconceptions about Christmas
More Christmas Misconceptions—Part One
More Christmas Misconceptions—Part Two
Christmas Misconceptions: Legalism or License
Merry Christmas!

Thanks for reading!