I’ve got to go out shortly, but I’d just like to briefly address your remarks on St. Augustine:
My original quote from St. Augustine’s City of God, Book XVI, chapter 8 was as follows:
But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast [Adam]. We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful… Accordingly, it ought not to seem absurd to us, that as in individual race there are monstrous births, so in the whole race there are monstrous races. Wherefore, to conclude this question cautiously and guardedly, either these things which have been told of some races have no existence at all; or if they do exist, they are not human races; or if they are human, they are descended from Adam.
First of all, I am not saying that “all rational minds are the men of Scripture,” as you suggest. Angels are obviously rational, yet I would never call them men. Why not? Because they are not animals. How does St. Augustine define “a man” in the passage quoted above? As “a rational, mortal animal.” Angels therefore don’t count.
Second, St. Augustine disagrees with your claim that the Nephilim are not descended from Adam, and he doesn’t place any credence in the Book of Enoch. Allow me to quote from an excellent blog article on the subject, titled, Nephilim, Incubi, and Succubi by Dr. Daniel van Slyke, of the Dead Philosophers’ Society (April 14, 2014):
Some Fathers of the Church, including St Clement of Alexandria, interpret the “sons of God” as “the angels who forsook the beauty of God for perishable beauty and fell as far as heaven is from the earth.” By this interpretation, some fallen or falling angels had sexual intercourse with women, resulting in a race of giants known as “Nephilim.” Other Fathers, including St Augustine, read “sons of God” as human beings who descended from the line of Seth, rather than from the line of wicked Cain.
In his book Angels (and Demons) (q. 58, pp. 91-92), Peter Kreeft follows the tradition represented by Clement – whether wittingly or unwittingly – by interpreting the Nephilim as the children of giants who copulated with fallen angels. Although his book is exemplary in many ways, Kreeft omits the fact that there is no consensus among the Fathers of the Church on this point.
Consider, for example, the following passage from St Ephrem the Syrian. Moses (that is, the author of Genesis), according to Ephrem, “called the sons of Seth ‘sons of God,’ the righteous people of God. The beautiful daughters of men whom they saw were the daughters of Cain who adorned themselves and became a snare to eyes of the sons of Seth. Then Moses said, ‘they took to wife such of them as they chose,’ because when ‘they took’ them, they acted very haughtily over those whom they chose. A poor one would exalt himself over the wife of a rich man, and an old man would sin with one who was young. The ugliest of all would act arrogantly over the most beautiful.”
St Augustine follows a similar line of interpretation, by reading the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1 as good men who became corrupt in Genesis 6:2. His interpretation is, in my mind, the best ever given of the passage. It appears in the City of God (XV.23).
Augustine notes first of all that people of large stature are still around; just visit a circus and you are likely to find one, or think of wrestler Andre the Giant. Some simply translate “Nephilim” as “giants.” That there were many giants around in the ancient days discussed in Genesis 6:1-4 is entirely possible, and does not demand any supernatural explanation.
Augustine next notes that the accepted text of Genesis 6:2 does not speak of “angels,” but rather of the “sons of God.” According to Kreeft, “sons of God” is a generic term for heavenly beings. It is also, however, a generic term for human beings who live in God’s grace. We are sons and daughters of God by grace or adoption.
So Augustine interprets the passage as follows. The “sons of God” – those who loved God and sought him above all things – became enamored with the beauty of women, and the seductions of other worldly things. This led them to fall from the love and grace of God into the mire of the constant pursuit of worldly pleasures and accomplishments. Once all God-fearing, just men have disappeared from the earth (except Noah), the flood comes (the topic of Genesis 6:6 and following).
Augustine is aware that the book of Enoch teaches that the Nephilim were the offspring of mating between angels and men. It is likely, in fact, that Clement of Alexandria followed Enoch on this point. Augustine, however, appropriately notes that the book of Enoch is apocryphal, coming from uncertain and untrustworthy origins, and is left out of the canon of Scripture for good reasons. Beware what you read on the internet: anyone who takes the Book of Enoch as an authority on Nephilim, angels, or anything else is not thinking with the mind of the Church.
In summary, Augustine’s interpretation of the passage regarding the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1-4 is sound and convincing, and any who are further interested in the topic should read it. Quite simply, the passage is not about fallen angels mating with men, which is an ontological impossibility. A horse cannot be the biological father of a cricket; it is even less possible for a demon (a pure spirit) to be the biological father of a man (a creature both physical and spiritual).
Well said. You may read what St. Augustine has to say in his City of God, Book XV, chapter 23, here.
You also mention extraterrestrials. The short answer is that St. Augustine didn’t believe they existed, because if they did, he thought it would entail multiple Incarnations. In his City of God, Book XII, chapter 11, St. Augustine mentions scoffers who “are of opinion either that this is not the only world, but that there are numberless worlds or that indeed it is the only one, but that it dies, and is born again at fixed intervals, and this times without number,” but he goes on to reject all these beliefs. The first Christian writer to explicitly endorse belief in aliens was Nicholas of Cusa, writing in the 15th century, who was later made a Cardinal. Wisely, he refrained from asking whether these aliens needed their own Savior, which is why his writings were not condemned, whereas those of Giordano Bruno (who was far less tactful) were. You might like to read Frank Tipler’s article on the subject here.
I hope that answers your questions, Joshua.