Sons of God or Angels?
NCW 33, April 1996 (Part II)
Q. In the King James Version, Revised Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, Jerusalem Bible and Revised Standard Versions of the Bible it says in Job: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? ...when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:4,7, RSV) but in more modern translations like the New International Version it says "angels" instead of "sons of God" or "heavenly beings" (Smith & Goodspeed). How is one supposed to know which is correct?
All the "literal" translations render the passage you mention as "sons of God" and to change this into "angels" is interpretation. (The NIV does, to its credit, add a footnote saying that the Hebrew is "sons of God"). This passage, together with Job 1:6 and 2:1 are quite important because they point very clearly to a pre-mortal life. Whilst the designation "sons of men" can refer to angels (e.g. the fathers of the Nephilim), it can also refer to the pre-incarnate spirits of men and women. And as we have discussed before, the term "angel" is a very general one and can refer as much to mortal "messengers" as to heavenly beings.
Unfortunately there is a great fear on the part of the majority of Christians to even entertain the possibility of a spiritual pre-existence, not because such a notion is unbiblical or irrational, but because there is an unfortunate tendency to confuse it with the pernicious and false doctrine of reincarnation or the transmigration of souls. Though we have said it a hundred times, let it be stated again: by the doctrine of pre-existence we do not mean multiple incarnations such as the occultists and Hindus teach. We mean, quite simply, that we were created in spirit before we were placed into mortal bodies and shall live on this world but once. New Covenant Christians therefore believe that we were amongst the "sons of God" who "shouted for joy" when the world was formed.
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