Sunday, 2 November 2008

A Little History of Giants: Religious Views

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
King James Bible Genesis 6.4

NOTE: This proposal to do a post about the history of giants and investigate the reasons for the stories sounded all very good at first. A quick post would suffice. Then I realised there was too much material for one post and thought of doing a series. Now I see there is so much material this series will be ongoing for quite some time... just getting through the religious texts will take me quite some time. I'll try to sprinkle in posts about other topics, but giants are my new obsession. I apologise in advance. 

Stories of giants abound throughout all cultures and time periods. From the Bible through to the Chronicles of Narnia (sure they are linked by Narnia's Christian symbolism but hey let me get away with that leap!), giants have certainly left quite a great mark on our history and literature considering they are supposedly mythical creatures. What causes tales of giants to be so prolific?Let's first look at the evidence from the belief systems of the world (what's the difference between belief systems and folklore? I hear you cry... erm... not much but I'll try and make some prejudiced decisions as I go along)

*CAUTION: FUNDIE THINKING AHEAD* - Who knew that fundamentalists Christians have a giant fetish? (Giant fetishists are known as macrophiles, for anyone who might have wondered). 

Abrahamic Accounts

But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.

And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.

And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

King James Bible Numbers 13:31-33

Nephilim (or Rephaim) are the giants of Biblical times. Supposedly born of human females who had been seduced by a group of fallen angels from Heaven they were greedy and mean creatures. Check out this passage from the Book of Enoch (nope, not in your Bible... but it's in some!) in which the Watchers (fallen angels) giant children are punished for having brought misery to Earth.  

The parents of the Nephilim?
And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men, and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. As for the spirits of heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of the earth which were born upon the earth, on the earth shall be their dwelling. And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless hunger and thirst, and cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them. 
Book of Enoch 15:8-11
Not much of a punishment there. They cause misery on Earth and their punishment is to keep causing misery on Earth. Hmm.... me thinks that God must have been having an off day. The story is also told in the Book of Giants. The Nephilim seem to disappear from Biblical accounts after the Great Flood and many Young Earth Creationists believe them to be a pre-flood race only. Others believe something more sinister happened to them but that'll have to wait for another day.

Perhaps the most famous giant from the Old Testament is Goliath, one of several giant Philistines who, I hardly need remind you, met an unfortunate death at the hands of the King David. So how tall was he? Well most accounts, including those found on the Dead Sea Scrolls, put him at four cubits and a span which is about 6'7" (2 metres) tall. That's shorter than me! It was only later accounts that have placed him at heights of over 9 feet. As such Goliath, if he existed at all, would have been merely a notably tall man not a true giant.

So what could have caused reports of the Nephilim? The time during which the Hebrews began to write their Bible was just after the greatest calamity befell civilisation since it's inception thousands of years beforehand; the end of the Bronze Age. It is still unclear what really brought about the collapse of several different major civilisations within a very close time period, but whatever it was it happened quickly. So rapid and complete was the devastation wrought that within a few decades little was remembered of those past civilisations by the new inhabitants of their lands. All that these new inhabitants saw was the impossibly large ruins of the cities, and finding them so incredibly advanced compared to their own culture and abilities they may have concocted stories of giants as the only way they could comprehend what may have created these megaliths. 

We shall return to the Nephilim and the religious texts stated here in another post, where I'll bring up some of the more zany and out there modern theories to do with the giants of the Bible. Tin foil hats will be required. 


Ancient Sumeria, modern day Iraq, is the birthplace of our civilised world. It's also not a million miles away from the lands of the Bible. The Anunnaki were Sumerian deities who lived in the Heavens and on Earth.  Another related deity was Marduk who supposedly hailed from a celestial body named Nibiru (probably Jupiter). Why mention these? Well they were often depicted as giants and the fact they came down to Earth offers a similarity to the Nephilim of the Bible. Plus I will be mentioning them later as in some peoples minds the Nephilim and Anunnaki are one and the same... In mind they are too but not in the real sense. I have no doubt that tales of the Anunnaki would have influenced early Hebrew thinking. Babylon (a successor state to Sumeria) features heavily in the history and writings of Hebrew thinkers and it's crazy to think they wouldn't hear about Marduk and the Anunnaki

Incan Beliefs

As there is in Peru a story of some giants who landed on the coast at the point of Santa Elena, in the vicinity of the city of Puerto Viejo, I have resolved to mention what I was told about them, as I understood it, without taking into account the opinions of the common people and their various anecdotes, for they usually magnify events larger than life. The natives, repeating a story received from their forefathers from very remote times, say that there came from across the sea on reed rafts that were as large as big ships some men that were so big that an ordinary man of good size scarcely reached up to their knees: their members were in proportion to the size of their bodies, and it a monstrous thing to see their enormous heads and their hair hanging down about their shoulders. Their eyes were as large as small plates. They say they had no beards and that some of them were clad in the skins of animals, and others only in the dress nature gave them. There were no women with them. On reaching this point, they set up their camp like a village (and even in these times there is a memory of the site of their houses). As they found no supply of water they remedied the lack by making some very deep wells, a labor certainly worthy of record, being undertaken by such strong men as these must have been, to judge by their size. They dug these wells in the living rock until they came to the water, and afterwards they built the wells in stone from the water line upwards so that they would last for ages. In these wells the water is excellent and it is always so cold that it is very pleasant to drink.

When these great men or giants had thus made their settlement and dug these wells or cisterns, they destroyed and ate all the supplies they could find in the neighborhood. It is said that one of them ate more than fifty of the natives of the land; and as the supply of food was not sufficient for them to maintain themselves, they caught much fish with nets and gear that they had. They lived in continuous hostility with the natives, because they slew the latter's women in order to have them, and they also slew the men for other reasons. But the Indians were not numerous enough to kill these newcomers who occupied their land and lorded it over them; and although they held great discussions about this, they never dared attack them.
The Royal Commentaries of the IncasGarcilaso de la Vega
Perhaps, having become quite unpopular in the Old World, the Nephilim decided to head for pastures new. Other Inca legends speak of home grown giants:

According to Inca legend, Lake Titicaca was revered as the location where the god Viracocha created a race of giants and later, the first humans. The Inca maintained that the giants built Tiahuanaco and also many other cities and structures in the area. However, due to their great evil, Viracocha destroyed the giants in a world flood.
From this article
Similar theories have been, bizarrely, suggested in modern times to explain the Nazca lines. For a more sober look at the Nazca lines, check this out.

Despite being separated by thousands of miles the synchronicity of the stories between the Middle East and the New World is worthy of comment. 

Next time Mayans, Greeks, Hindus and more... 

This post is already too long and I've not even scratched the surface... to be continued... 

Watch the documentary below, it's quite good although relies too much on some rather dubious scientists who I suspect might in fact be YEC Christians... 

Further Reading

1 comment:

Steven Blue-Williams said...

All I have to say is, YAY someone else who finds the nephilim interesting!