The Hard Fall of the Nephilim
The Internet seems to have a special place in its heart for tales of ancient giants. Some say giants were real in Biblical times; some say they survived even into the early 20th century, to be swept under the rug by evolutionists intent on preserving their Darwinist narrative. Sometimes we hear these giants referred to as the Nephilim (נְפִילִים in Hebrew). It's a strange sounding word. What is its origin? Are the creatures it describes the same as more familiar giants? Today we're going to dive into the histories, and find where the frightening Nephilim fit into our literary past — and our archaeological past, if they do.
In Skeptoid #765 we talked about the modern Internet mythology of Tartaria and the Mud Flood, which claims that prior to the 1800s, giants were common all over the Earth — a beautiful truth which today's governments and historians conspire to cover up, though the reasons anyone would do that are unclear. As evidence of the giants, believers point to black and white photographs of Robert Wadlow, who died in 1940 at the age of 22 from complications related to his gigantism, a condition which gave him a height of 272cm (8'11") making him the tallest human known — and he was still growing when he died. Believers in this alternate history claim the entire civilized world was deluged by a great mud flood, which killed off all the other giants (the conjecture lacks a convincing explanation for why giants would be the ones to die in the flood, rather than the much smaller humans). The primary evidence for this inundation of mud is that some city buildings have floors below street level — they must have been ground floors until the mud levels buried them. Obviously.
Correction: An earlier version of this mistakenly gave Robert Wadlow's birth year, 1918, as his death year, because I sometimes make really dumb fumbles. —BD
Enthusiasts of alternative histories often passionately embrace such fantastic stories, and often react with hostility and contempt toward actual history. Internet echo chambers do a lot to facilitate this, and also to normalize it. Within these bubbles, evidence of all sorts (and of all qualities) is passed around. This often includes photoshop jobs of giant skeletons being unearthed and such things, but it also includes what's regarded as legitimate precedent for the existence of giants: stories from the Bible of people called Nephilim — which some interpret to be actual, literal giants.
The first question we reasonably ask in learning about the Nephilim is what's the original reference. The classic one given is Genesis 6:4, so let's have a look. I generally use the ESV, the English Standard Version, which is one of the newest versions out there, intended to be a blend of being closest in meaning to the original texts while also written in sentences that make sense. It says:
So, these characters called the "sons of God" came down and made babies with human women, and those offspring were the Nephilim. So who were the "sons of God"? This is a question that there's no authoritative answer to. Some descriptions of the Nephilim describe them as "fallen angels" — so maybe the "sons of God" are angels, or fallen angels, making these Nephilim offspring some kind of demigod beings. Well, OK, fine; there are no other demigods, or angel-human hybrids, anywhere else in the Bible; so this is probably not the correct explanation. Just a fluke in the language? Who knows. I've had to read quite a lot about this, and my conclusion is there is no consistent, coherent explanation for what this verse means. If I had to bet, I'd say it was a bad translation early on, or something that was poorly worded originally.
There's one other place in the Bible where the Nephilim are mentioned, and that's Numbers 13:33. Some spies have gone to scope out the land of Canaan but they find it already occupied by strong, tall people, and they report:
Anak? Who's he? We don't know much about him except that he's supposed to be a big strong guy, or possibly a giant. In Hebrew, Anak is a homophone for a word that means giant, or necklace, or long neck. When you read some of the scholarly discussion of this verse, one school of thought is that there were literal giants living there, making humans the size of grasshoppers by comparison; another school of thought is that these spies were afraid to enter the land and so they just made up this discouraging report; still another is that the people in Canaan were generally taller than the Israelites; and of course there's always the idea that much of the Bible is allegorical or outright fictional. There simply isn't enough context given to make an interpretation of any meaningful reliability. In other words, the documentation on which the legend of the Nephilim is based is extremely flimsy.
Nevertheless, there's enough there that it adds up to a powerful combination. Obviously the people who attempt to prove that the Bible was a literal, unerring historical document are highly passionate individuals; as are many of the promoters of alternative histories. Any narrative that casts mainstream scientists as conspiring villains is automatically an attractive one. Put these things together, and we have some pretty zealous advocates.
There are authors such as Steve Quayle, Lynn Marzulli, and Rob Skiba who have written books, given lectures, and made documentary films, all making the same essential claims. They blend ancient alien concepts with Bible stories — for example, interpreting the "fallen angels" or "sons of God" as alien visitors who created an actual race of giants, thus the Bible stories were true. The authors point to old, discredited pseudoarchaeology claims as the proof. These include misinterpretation of large bones (like those of extinct megafauna such as mammoths) as Nephilim bones; or the many cases of strange skulls from cultures around the world who used to practice head binding as ornamentation, resulting in elongated skulls (discussed in detail in Skeptoid #144). And there have been other misinterpretations. Any and all of these artifacts, and many more, have been claimed to have been giant humans by these authors, who insist that modern scientists are paid to cover it up and deny its reality.
One of the chief villains in this narrative is often the Smithsonian Institution, whom some alternative historians see as a nefarious gatekeeper of sacred knowledge, promoting only narrow mainstream science and suppressing the beautiful truths about giants, ancient astronauts, crystal skulls, and what have you. Hoax articles have been published claiming the Smithsonian destroyed huge numbers of giant skeletons to hide the truth about them:
National Geographic gets their share of these fake articles too:
But don't think that fake reports of giant skeletons are a modern Internet phenomenon. A search of pre-WWI newspaper articles produces countless examples. This is about a find in Tennessee from the Washington Telegraph in 1845:
In 1892, the Kansas City Star reported a find from Indiana:
And a find in Berkeley from the San Francisco Call in 1903:
But that's enough, we could literally go on for a week reading these. What do all of these finds have in common? Or, more exactly, what are they all missing in common? Not a single piece of evidence. In an article all about bones, you'd think there might be at least one bone. But there's not. Of all these countless stories, not a single actual bone was ever saved or even photographed. Not a single academic paper was written. Not one giant human bone exists anywhere, in any museum exhibit, university archive, or private collection.
And so, this modern effort we see to prove the ancient alien narrative by citing the Biblical Nephilim as historical precedent fails, in the same way that proving leprechauns by claiming the existence of unicorns fails. Although I hesitate to remind these authors of the basics of the scientific method, I will do so anyway. Science is the process of finding a testable explanation for an observation. When that explanation is supported by multiple lines of strong evidence, then it begins to be a theory. The very first step to take would be to have the observation: in this case, giant human bones that can be tested and studied, with conclusions that can be replicated by others. Without such bones, we have nothing needing to be explained. For the authors to take the process in reverse — to start by asserting that the Bible is literally true because of ancient aliens, and to proceed by misrepresenting old hoaxes — it means they're not doing science; they're engaging in wishful thinking. And not very persuasively.
And so the Nephilim are not part of any true history, and don't come from any actual events either modern or historical. Maybe tomorrow their bones will be found and we can flip this conclusion on its head; but that would indeed be a giant find.
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