Why ‘Because of the Angels’ does not refer to the ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis
In 1 Corinthians 11:10, Paul says we’re to practice head covering “because of the angels.” This is rightly called an obscure verse because Paul does not explain what he means by that phrase. There are many theories, which we’ve already articulated, but today we’d like to talk about a popular view that we think is highly improbable. This is the belief that the angels are the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6. Here’s what that portion of Scripture says:
Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Gen 6:1-4 NASB)
The identity of the “sons of God” is debated 1) For an overview of the various views please visit this page: https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/who-were-the-nephilim/ , but one of the more popular views is that they refer to fallen angels. In this theory, demons lust after human women, which leads them to take wives for themselves and have children with them. Thus it is asserted that when Paul tells women to cover their heads “because of the angels” (1 Cor 11:10), he means so that the fallen angels will not lust after them or sexually assault them.
Derek Prince (international Bible teacher, author of 50+ books) is one advocate of this view. He says:
“In Luke 17:26 Jesus warns us: ‘And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man’…In Noah’s day…humanity was invaded by angels…who made human women the objects of their lust.” 3) Derek Prince – Because of the Angels (page 3)
So Prince teaches that in Noah’s day, angels lusted after and had intercourse with human women. He then makes a connection to Jesus’ statement that the immorality of Noah’s day (which is when the sons of God situation happened) would be characteristic of the last days in our own time (Luke 17:26).
He then applies this interpretation to 1 Corinthians 11.
“If the above interpretation of Scripture is correct, it imparts fresh urgency to Paul’s warnings given in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16…Paul warned that human women participating in the worship of the Church needed to be aware of the possible presence of both good and evil angels. Their appropriate response was to have a suitable covering on their heads…[this] protected themselves against impure spiritual influences that might proceed from evil angels.” 4) Derek Prince – Because of the Angels (pages 3-4)
Though this view has a long history (going back to Tertullian in the second century) we believe it cannot stand up to biblical scrutiny. Here are some problems we see with this theory5) For the sake of this article we will assume that the “sons of God” are rightly understood as “fallen angels.” Of course, if that were not the case and they are actually human males, it nullifies the theory. :
- The “sons of God” theory treats head covering as an exclusively female issue. However, Paul says this is a symbol for both genders. Women are to have a covered head and men are to have an uncovered head. So if a woman’s covering keeps her from being lusted at by demons, how does that explain why men must have nothing on their heads? (1 Cor 11:4).
- If a head covering kept a woman modest so that fallen angels would not lust after them, we’d expect Paul to say it needs to be practiced all the time. After all, lust can happen whenever one is seen. Paul instead only tells women to cover when “praying and prophesying” (1 Cor 11:5). Even if this symbol is not limited to church gatherings, he’s still not telling women to be covered at all times or whenever they’re in public.
- Head covering6) We mean head covering with the meaning attached to it in 1 Corinthians 11. Many women will have covered their heads for cultural reasons throughout the ages. was only practiced by believers after Christ came to earth. No where in the Old Testament were women commanded to keep their heads covered. Once again, if head covering kept angels from lusting after women, we’d expect God to have told women in the Old Testament to cover their heads as well. It’s unthinkable that God would not tell women how they can protect themselves from impure demonic encounters, if that’s what covering does.
- Head covering does not turn a beautiful woman into a non-beautiful woman7) Genesis 6 makes no reference to lust. It only says the “sons of God” saw that the women were beautiful. Thus beauty was what led them to take the women as wives, not immodesty. . A simple scarf or veil over one’s head does not keep anyone from recognizing that the “daughters of men [are] beautiful” nor does it take away the desire to take one “as a wife” like the “sons of God” did (Gen 6:2). If you practiced head covering before you got married, your husband will be able to attest to this.
- Most Christian women in the 21st Century pray uncovered. If the reason why women must cover their heads was for their protection from fallen angels, we’d expect to hear of many uncovered women having encounters with fallen angels. We know that this is not the case. 8) Derek Prince argues that eyewitness encounters of “visitors from outer space” may be these fallen angels. We believe that this is unlikely speculation. The fact that there isn’t any real threat, shows that this wasn’t what Paul meant.
Many biblical commentators have also identified the “sons of God” theory as improbable. Here are a few examples:
“Paul cannot mean evil angels subject to sensual temptation, as many, after Tertullian, have read the passage, basing it on a precarious interpretation of Gen 6:4–an explanation far-fetched and grossly improbable.”
– G.G. Findlay 9) The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Eerdmans Publishing, 1956) Page 874
“A common interpretation, that there were “male” angels who on seeing the women unveiled lusted after them after the manner of the “sons of God” in Gen 6:2, may be ruled out at once, since that assumes a kind of “veiling” on the part of the women for which there is no first-century evidence.”
-Gordon Fee 10) The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans Publishing, 1987) Page 521
“‘For this reason the woman to have power on the head on account of the angels’–a sentiment entirely mistaken by the mass of commentators, who have gone off, some into degrading thoughts about bad angels…”
-William Kelly 11) The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (London: G. Morrish, 1878) Page 174
“The angels have often been explained in terms of the narrative of [Genesis 6], in which the ‘sons of God’ (angels) assaulted the daughters of men; against such potential attackers women need protection. It is not however clear how the wearing of a veil while they pray or prophesy can serve their purpose. Is this the only time at which lustful angels may prey upon them?”
-C.K. Barrett 12) The First Epistle to the Corinthians [Black’s New Testament Commentaries] (A&C Black Publishers, 1971) Page 253
“…the suggestion that the Apostle is hinting that unveiled women might be a temptation to angels (Gen 6:1,2) is somewhat childish.”
– A.T. Robertson & Alfred Plummer 13) The International Critical Commentary – 1 Corinthians (T&T Clark, 1914) – Page 233
Though we cannot know what “because of the angels” (1 Cor 11:10) means with any degree of certainty, we can eliminate some theories as possibilities. As we’ve shown, understanding this reference to point back to the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 has too many issues to be a viable explanation of the passage. Whatever Paul did mean, it has to be able to explain why both genders practice this symbol (though differently) and why it’s only to be worn/not worn during specific times. This is something that this theory cannot do.