Posted by Cory Tucholski
Our old friend Simcha Jacobovici is back. I’ve seen the listing for the show The Naked Archeologist several times, but I never bothered to watch. I had no idea that Jacobovici was the Naked Archeologist until I watched a show the other day on tracking down the giants mentioned in the Bible.
An obscure and usually ignored reference to giants comes in Genesis. Goliath is reputed as one; so is King Og. Here is the reference:
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” 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. (Gen 6:1-4 KJV, emphasis added)
No skeletal remains from the ANE dating to Old Testament times or before has exceeded 6’5″. That’s not giant by anyone’s standard. So, why does the Bible contain a reference to a race of giants?
I could never understand the veneration of the King James version. Sure, it’s the most lyrical and poetic of the English translations. I won’t argue that. But, it has numerous documented mistranslations. This is one of them. Here’s the same passage, in my personal favorite Bible translation:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Gen 6:1-4 ESV, emphasis added)
The ESV uses the literal Hebrew word that had been translated “giant” since the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate editions of the Old Testament. The Hebrew word nephilim doesn’t mean “giant.” It means “fallen ones.”
Jacobovici talks to a Jewish scholar who says that, according to Jewish tradition, the “sons of God” were earthly beings that resembled humans but didn’t possess a soul. Jacobovici believes that this may refer to Neanderthals, who walked the earth with humans some 60,000 years ago.
He said that humans and Neanderthals lived in peace for a time, and suggests that they may have intermarried, thus producing the Nephilim. The Nephilim were powerful beings: the Bible describes them as people of great renown. His hypothesis makes some sense–Neanderthals would have been closer to animals and therefore very cunning and strong. Add a human intellect to that mix and you have the recipe for a man of great strength, and thus great renown.
The problem is that Jacobivici is more concerned with ratings than with truth (reference the Jesus Family Tomb incident). I happened to watch Exodus Decoded a while back. The Wikipedia entry suggested the same sorts of misrepresentations and half-truths that drove the Jesus Family Tomb documentary. While his theory has some potential validity, it’s difficult to trust his reporting.