15 Were Angels a Prehistoric Race on Earth?
Bible and Science – Were the Angels Once a Prehistoric Race on Earth?
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev. 4:11).
We saw previously in these articles that there is negligible evidence linking the various hominid species that appear in the fossil record over the past four million years. The support for the Darwinist view of gradual change causing the hominid progression is entirely circumstantial and would not hold up in a court of law! Indeed, recent findings for other eras of prehistory (the Cambrian for example) indicate abrupt changes and explosive emergence of new species without any apparent linkage with the past.1 Let’s examine some of the problems associated with the fossil record concerning hominid species and see if there is an alternative model other than Darwinism.
Simple math disproves Darwin
If human-like creatures existed for 4 million years prior to modern man, what was their population demography? Even a cursory calculation of the number of beings that could have existed from these pre-homo sapiens yields a very large number. Assume, for example, that the average span of a generation was 20 years; then we would have some 200,000 generations worth of fossils that potentially could be found since “Lucy”.2
Using this figure, there are a couple ways to estimate the pre-modern hominid population. We could assume the usual geometric progression sequence, which would mean the population would double in each succeeding generation (this is a model used by evolutionists to explain rapid expansion of a so-called genetic innovation3). The geometric assumption means we need to raise 2 to the exponent 200,000 to span all the hominid generations from “Lucy” down to our modern era. This would give us the total population that had been born over the 4 million year period. This number is so large that it would take several pages filled with zeros to write it down hence we will discount this approach [1×10500 for the mathematically inclined].
We can take a more conservative demographic model and assume that the hominid populace some 4 million years ago quickly reached a stable population of about 10,000 creatures and didn’t grow beyond this range.4 Using this conservative estimate we come up with a figure of approximately 20 billion hominid fossils that could possibly have existed. This is about 4 times the present population of human beings on this planet. Where are all these fossils? The answer usually given is that they are so dispersed that they are hard to find (yet evolutionists usually state that early hominids concentrated in East Africa). With so large a potential number of fossils, sooner or later it should be possible to definitively prove whether or not there were links between the various hominid species and modern man.
No genetic links
At the present time, even though it may be unstated in grades K through 12 textbooks, or in Natural History Museum guidebooks, there is no convincing proof of direct genetic links between say Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals, or between homo sapiens and either one of them. It is entirely possible that each of these species arose independently of the others, lived and flourished for a time period by themselves and then disappeared from this planet.
No technological advances
Another remarkable thing about prehistoric hominid fossils is the apparent lack of any evidence that over the past 4 million year time period there was any noticeable advance in the technological skills of these creatures. Simple stone tools have been found in some burial sites where fossils have been recovered and that seems to be the extent of their technology.
Given what mankind has achieved in the past six thousand years it is indeed strange that, for a time period thousands of times longer, technological progress was at a virtual standstill. It is doubtful that these prehistoric creatures knew anything about agricultural cultivation, animal domestication5 or even means of improved hunting such as the bow and arrow. However, there is some hint of religious development in these creatures because some gravesites where fossils have been found have also shown concomitant evidence of food being buried with the deceased. This has been interpreted as possibly making provision for an afterlife, which would require these pre-historic creatures to hold some sort of religious belief.
Possible pre-Adamic creations
Another remarkable discovery regarding pre-historic hominid fossils is evidence that leads to the presumption of a social structure. The reason for this is the occasional discovery of male and females buried in close proximity indicating the possibility of a social bond. Finally, the very fact that there are fossil remains found in what sometimes appears to be prepared ground, i.e. organized prehistoric cemeteries, in itself implies social structure. How do these observations mesh with the Bible?
The Bible gives hints that this present dispensation is not the only use that the Lord God has made of this planet. I will review some of these, but please be aware that the word hint is as far as I think a reasonable person ought to be willing to stipulate. The scriptures are sparse in providing any details of what preceded the Adamic creation, if indeed anything did! I am not sure that mankind is spiritually fit or sufficiently morally mature enough to be given any detailed knowledge.
The Bible starts out by telling us that when creation began the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Gen. 1:2). We are not told specifically how the earth came to be in that state. It is possible that it was always in that fashion until God moved to make the present creation. It is also possible the earth was subjected to some vast catastrophe(s) that put it in such a state. It is interesting to note that Cro-Magnon hominids became extinct about ten thousand years ago and that the last ice age, which covered large areas of the northern hemisphere, ended about the same time. It is also thought that homo sapiens survived the ice age. Thus, prior to the flourishing of modern human history, the earth’s northern temperate climatic zone was a very inhospitable place; we doubt, however, that this qualifies as being without form and void!
“Replenish” is not certain
Some sources cite the use of the word “replenish” in Genesis 1:28 (KJV) to prove that there was a prior creation upon the earth. However, the Hebrew word used in that verse does not have this as the primary meaning and could simply mean, “fill” without any sense of implying “fill again.”6 The KJV and ASV apparently chose the English word “replenish” as having the proper sense (the NIV disagrees) because the same Hebrew word is used in Genesis 9:1 in the commandment God gave to Noah after the flood: And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. There can be no question that the sense of “fill again” is what is meant in this latter case and by analogy it is reasonable (but not definitive) to conclude the sense of replenishing is what God also intended to convey to Adam also.7,8 The remaining instances of the use of the same Hebrew word are all rendered as simply “fill”. Hence, it is risky to assume too much from the use of the word“replenish” in the first chapter of Genesis in the AV.
Angels and a prior creation
Other scriptural support that could lead one to suspect prior creation(s) on the earth is the answer to the interesting query; where did the angels come from? The subject of angels is a big one and we do not intend a prolonged discussion at this point but only briefly to relate some of the Biblical evidence for their possible connection to a prior creation (possibly on earth).
First of all, we know that angels must have acquired immortality, they certainly could not have been co-eternal with the Father for the scriptures are plain in saying; Who only hath immortality… (I Tim. 6:16) in referring to the Lord God. We know that angels are beyond the ordinary cares of this life (Matt. 22:30); they are exalted creatures (Heb. 2:16) yet not on the same level as the risen Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:4).
The angel Gabriel explains a vision to the prophet Daniel in Babylon and presumably (otherwise why would scripture explicitly mention his name?) the same Gabriel is sent to Mary to tell her of her favored position in God’s sight to be the mother of the Messiah. The two visits to earth by Gabriel are almost 600 years apart! Even more fascinating is the case of the angel Michael who is mentioned by Daniel (Dan. 10:13,21;12:1); spoken of being involved in the burial of Moses (Jude 1:9) and finally is named by the apostle John in the book of Revelation (12:7). These diverse incidents span a 3500-year time period. We are told that the righteous will be made like unto the angels in physical and moral being (Mk. 12:25). Hence the scriptures give us specific information of the immortality of angels (and by implication what is in store for the righteous redeemed of the present age). Since they were involved with the Lord in the work of creation on this planet they must have acquired immortality somewhere somehow. It is a reasonable (but again not definitive) model to presume that the angels acquired immortality in some prior dispensation possibly here on earth (their special mission to this planet suggests that conclusion).
Interpretations of angels that sinned
The reference to angels by the Apostle Peter is especially intriguing; For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment… (II Pet. 2:4). The pioneer brethren9 considered this reference and the enigmatic one in Jude (v. 6) — And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day — as an inference the angels were the result of a prior dispensation on planet earth.10 However, more recently these verses in the books of Peter and Jude have been attributed to the incident where Dathan, Korah and Abiram (DKA) were swallowed up into the earth as a result of their rebellious confrontation with Moses (Num. 16).
Standard Bible commentaries have incredibly fanciful interpretations of these two passages and the reader can check for him/herself if you find yourself with nothing better to do.11 The connection with DKA is principally made from the fact that II Peter 2 starts off talking about false teachers and certainly this evil trio which contested Moses fit that picture as does the scenario of their being swallowed up in the earth. However, there are also difficulties with this identification. First, why do Peter and James call DKA angels? They are certainly not called by this appellation anywhere in the Old Testament. Why not name these men specifically even as Peter directly mentions Noah and Lot; it seems like an inconsistency in style that would obscure what was meant when plain speech would have been more straightforward. Secondly, there is the problem of chronology in the Peter reference. If the reference is to DKA, why does Peter place that incident before Noah and Lot?
The Jude reference gives a better argument on behalf of those who prefer the DKA interpretation because here the chronology would be all jumbled up if verse 6 weren’t tied to verse 5 and the rebellion in the wilderness. The curious phrase, which did not keep their first estate (Jude 6) can also be linked to DKA. The Greek word estate here has the primary meaning of position or rank and certainly that is exactly what DKA aspired to do, i.e. exalt themselves in power and rank equal to Moses. We can conclude from this that while the angels no doubt came from a prior creation and obtained their immortality by whatsoever means the Lord God determined, nevertheless the Biblical case for tying them to past hominids such as Neanderthals or Cro-Magnons or prehistoric homo sapiens has its difficulties. We cannot definitively know whether they came from the earth or as the result of God working somewhere else in the universe. Let’s seek out further evidence concerning angels.
Further pointers connecting the angels to the earth
We also need to consider the statement the Apostle Paul makes to the Corinthians in discussing the role of the saints in judgment: Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? (I Cor. 6:3) It would be a considerable stretch to interpret this verse in terms of Dathan, Korah and Abiram especially since in the previous verse he says the saints will judge the world. The Greek word here for world is kosmos and refers to the “inhabitants” not the age or era.12 One could conclude from this reference that the original beings that became “angels” were possibly associated with this planet at sometime in the past.
When Adam was created, the scriptures record that the angels said; And God (elohim) said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, (Gen. 1:26). The scriptures rarely waste words and the redundant emphasis on image (or resemblance) as well as likeness has important physical and moral undertones. For our current purposes we will focus on the former, which clearly tells us we look like the angels. There is, of course, experiential proof of this idea since there are many occasions in scripture where angels are mistaken for humans so much so that we are admonished; Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Heb. 13:2). It has been written of Cro-Magnons: “Scientists believe they resembled modern Europeans.”13 This, of course, does not prove that Cro-Magnons are related to the angels in their pre-glorified state but it does agree with that possibility. If this resemblance weren’t true, it certainly would strengthen the argument for that angels did not come from the Cro-Magnon race or any earlier homo sapiens who previously inhabited the earth.
In conclusion, we cannot fail to note that our pioneer brethren uniformly believed in an old earth and a pre-Adamic dispensation. I personally was brought up with this belief and only in recent times has this idea been challenged by a “young earth – young universe” theory picked up from certain fundamentalist Christian quarters. I’ve attempted to show in this essay that this belief in a pre-Adamic dispensation related to the angels is possible, and is also not inconsistent with scientific evidence of prehistoric times. The answer to the question posed in the title is one word: Possibly! Lord willing, I intend later in these essays to address specifically the question when and how this pre-Adamic dispensation could have existed.
By John C. Bilello, Ann Arbor, Michigan
1 S.J. Gould and N. Eldredge. 1977: Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered, Paleobiology 3, pp. 115-151.
2 Recent studies on the teeth of over 750 hominid fossils at the University of Michigan has shown that a 20 year average life span is reasonable.
3 Stephen Jay Gould in the Book of Life.
4 It can be shown that for too small a population, stability is impossible and any local change in food supply or disease would have rapidly brought them to an end.
5 It is generally taught that cattle domestication began in Turkey some 8 to 10 thousand years ago. (New Scientist, July 24-30 issue, 2004.)
6 See Strong’s number 4390.
7 It is worth noting that both Brethren John Thomas and Robert Roberts accepted this sense of repopulating the earth. It is only in recent times that some have bought into the “young earth” argument.
8 The same Hebrew word is translated “presume” in Est. 7:5 ……Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so? But is most often translated simply as “fill” as in Gen. 1:22, Gen. 42:25, I Ki. 18:33 etc.
9 John Thomas, Elpis Israel, and Robert Roberts, The Visible Hand of God.
10 This quote clearly does not refer to immortal angels sinning. For a full discussion of this issue and the relationship to the erroneous teachings on angels in the Apocryphal book of Enoch, see articles by Steven Cox, Enoch and the Angels that Sinned, Tidings, 12/2000-1/2001 and Slandering Celestial Beings, Abrahamic Faith Beacon, 2003-04.
11 Matthew Henry’s Commentary and the NIV Study Notes attribute these passages to “fallen angels in heaven” etc.
12 Strong’s number 2889.
13 Article contributed by Alan E. Mann, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania (World Book Multimedia Encyclopaedia, Electronic Edition © 2001.