First, an apology is due for using these ugly words! They are unfortunately universally accepted by biblical scholars, though some do try to avoid one or the other term. As we have said earlier, the terms mean simply texts that have been given an author name other than the true, and/or texts held by some to be of less than major significance – all of which is debatable however. The two volumes issued under the general editorship of J.H. Charlesworth gives some seventy works: in THE OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA, divided into sections: apocalptic, testaments, wisdom literature, prayers, psalms and odes – and this does not contain them all!
A brief note about apocalyptic literature would not go amiss at this juncture. A generally held definition holds that it is a type of revelatory literature having a narrative structure and possessing certain special features, such as pseudonymity, strange images, and visions of the end of time.
The Testaments are usually centred on an ideal figure facing death who gathers his family around him, and exhorts them to avoid temptation and instructs them in the way of righteousness. Often he illustrates his words with descriptions of the future as revealed to him – in this the Testaments are similar to apocalyptic literature.
Returning to the Charlesworth volumes, the title he says, “denotes writings falsely attributed to ideal figures featured in the Old Testament”. (p. XXV of the General Introduction). Therefore he includes those writings 1) that are Jewish or Christian; 2) that are attributed to ideal figures in Israel’s past; 3) that lay claim to God’s message; 4) that build upon ideas in the OT; 5) that were composed mainly in the period 200 BC to 200 AD.
The importance of the Pseudepigrapha, in a nutshell, is that it gives us a “better understanding of the history amd of the thought of Jews during the centuries that preceded and followed the beginning of the common era” [AD]: Charlesworth, p. XXVIII of the Introduction. Four main themes or theological concepts occupy these writings: sin, evil and theodicy (the vindication of divine justice in relation to evil); the transcendence of God; belief in a Messiah; resurrection and paradise.
THE BOOK OF THE GIANTS
One of the most important texts coming under the heading above, for our study, is the fragmentary Book of the Giants, a literary work largely concerned with Enoch and the story of the Watchers, which was widely read (and translated) throughout the Roman Empire. It was believed to have been in circulation among the Manicheans, an heretical sect founded by Manichaeus (215-276 AD), a Persian religious leader.
Some of the most revealing work on the Book of Enoch has been done by the notable biblical exegete (scholar) J.T. Milik who stated it was his belief that the books attributed to Enoch, found at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) were originally of pre-Christian origin, and originally included an intact “Book of Giants” (instead of the existing replacement “Book 2” of “Enoch” known as the Similitudes). If it is surmised (with Milik) that the Similitudes are a late Christian work, this fact could account for its replacing the much earlier Book of Giants which is possible considering the latter’s popularity among the heretical Manicheans (and unpopularity with the early Church!)
An important article by the scholar, W.B. Henning, appeared in 1943, entitled “The Book of Giants”, a sort of commentary on the fragmentary text. To Henning belongs the credit of recovering the work from various fragments i.e. before the discovery of further (and older) pieces at Qumran. The Book/s of Enoch survive only in Ethiopic translation dating from about 400 AD – that is to say until copies of Enoch written in Aramaic were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Enoch himself lived before the Flood when the world was very different, at least in ancient imaginations. We are acquainted with the early story the Book of Enoch (and Genesis) tells: the fallen angels, the cohabitation, the birth of giants, the resultant strife. The Book of Giants retells part of this story and dwells on the exploits of the giants. The Qumran fragments concern the baleful dreams of the giants and Enoch’s attempts to interpret them. As we read, Enoch also tried to intercede with God on the giants’ behalf. It is probable that some of these accounts were derived from Near Eastern mythology and indeed one of the giants is called Gilgamesh, a Babylonian hero, subject of the epic written about 2000 years or more before the birth of Jesus. We are going to discuss the significance of the Epic of Gilgamesh in later chapters.
The descent of the Egregori
Henning mentions the fact that the story of the Book of Giants viz. the part dealing with the fallen angels and their giant sons led Mani (as Manichaeus is known) to transform into, or consider the fallen ones as, demons – an idea we have seen before. The angels rebelled, were captured, but two hundred escaped to earth. Mani who attempted to use the Book of Giants for his own ends, interpreted the puzzling expression of Gen 6; 4, as “when the Egregori (Nephilim) descended, the abortions were already in existence”. Mani understood ‘Gibborim’ to mean giants throughout and apparently had no difficulty with the various terms interpreted as “giants”. The “Egregori” and their giant progeny in Mani’s version of the Book of the Giants are defeated by the four archangels, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, and Istrael. No details are given in the Book of Enoch about the individual feats of the giants, but Mani mentioned king Og of Bashan, who managed to survive the Deluge.
One fragment says “many were killed, four hundred thousand Righteous..” As Henning remarks, these Righteous may have perished when the Egregori descended to earth. The hard labour imposed on some tribes by the Egregori/giants may be due says Henning to the insatiable needs of their giant progeny, (P 62 of the Bulletin in which Henning’s article appears).
In another fragment we read “Thereupon now Sahm the giant was very angry and laid hands on Mahawai the giant, with the intention of killing him…” In another place we are told “those are the Egregori and the giants that came out of the women..” (p. 69)
Henning goes on to translate and comment on a significant passage from “The Book of Giants”. “The angels themselves descended from the heaven to the earth. When the two hundred demons [Mani’s interpretation] saw those angels, they were much worried…They assumed the shape of men and hid themselves. The angels forcibly removed the men from the demons, laid them aside, and put watchers over them…the giants were sons with each other in bodily union …” (p. 69) Eventually after a long and hard struggle, as we have learned, the demons were overcome by the four angels. According to Georgius Syncellus, writing in the 8th century AD, says Henning in a footnote, there were three generations: the Giants; the Nephilim, their sons; the Eliud, their grandsons. In the Book of Enoch, the giants are killed or rather incited to kill each other before the Egregori are punished. Their spirits, we are told, shall roam the earth until the day of judgement.
“Before the sons of the giants were born”, a concluding fragment tells us, “who knew not Righteousness and piety among themselves, thirty-six towns had been prepared and erected so that the sons of the giants should live in them, they that come to beget…who live a thousand years.”
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS AND THE GIANTS
Dating the Scrolls with any great accuracy, as with all the books of the Bible, is not possible. However, radio-carbon techniques and artefacts from the period do help. It is generally accepted that the Scrolls date from about 200 BC (or earlier) to, say, 100 AD – at all events much, much earlier than our only previously existing texts.
A fascinating compendium of Qumran fragments (see pp 246-250) is given coherent form in the DEAD SEA SCROLLS by M. Wise, M. Abegg, and E. Cook (first published 1996). The authors summarise the event/s then give the relevant DSS lines.
The wicked giants brought both knowledge and havoc as we are told in Genesis. “…they knew the secrets…they killed many…they begat giants…The fallen (or descended) angels exploited the fruits of the earth and began to choose animals on which to perform unnatural acts, including humans. Animals named for the purposes of miscegenation, are donkeys, asses, rams, goats, and …from every animal…” The outcome, as the editors state, was perversion, and a brood of monstrous beings:
“…they defiled…all the earth was corrupted…they were seeking to devour many…” (p. 247)
Dreams of the giants
These giants are soon troubled by dreams and visions. Mahway, the titan son of the angel Barakel, tells of these initial dreams to his fellow giants. He sees a tablet being immersed in water, and when it emerges, all but three names have been washed away. The dream seems to foreshadow the destruction of all people except Noah and his sons by the Flood.
The giants then discuss the dream. “This vision [tells of] the spirits of the slain complaining about their killers and crying out that we shall die together and be made an end of…” (248).Then Ohya [a child of Shemihaza, the rebel ring-leader] said to Mahway, ‘Who showed you all this vision, my brother?’…Then Ohya said to Hahya [another child of Shemihaza], …”it is not for us [to resolve the crisis] but for Azazel…for the children of angels are the giants who would not let all their loved ones be neglected…we have strength…” (248)
However the giants realise the futility of fighting against the forces of heaven. In the following fragment, Gilgamesh speaks, “I am a giant and by the mighty strength of my arm …anyone mortal [I can defeat]…but I am not able to stand against the opponents who reside in heaven…” (249)
Ohya tells of his dream of a tree uprooted except for three roots, which could be interpreted similarly to the first dream. Ohya implies that the dream’s message refers only to the demon Azazel and suggests the destruction is only for the earthly rulers.
More dreams afflict the giants, which appear to bode ill for the giants. Some of those who dreamt spoke to the “monsters” (the progeny of miscegenation?) saying that “…in my dreams I was watching and there was a garden and gardeners who were watering …two hundred trees and large shoots came out of the the roots…then fire burned all the garden …” (249). Then those who had had dreams told the giants.
It is suggested thereupon that Enoch be called upon to interpret the dreams. Ohya said to the giants that he too had had a dream in which the Ruler of Heaven came down to earth. “All the giants and the monsters grew afraid and called Mahway and sent him to Enoch to interpret the dreams…[so that he could say] how long the giants have to live…” (249)
Mahway reaches Enoch and requests an interpretation. “Mahway said to him, ‘The giants await your words and all the monsters of the earth…we wish to know from you the meaning…’.” (249)
Enoch gives a grim message of judgement but with the hope of repentance on the part of the giants. The next fragment says that this record of Enoch’s judgement is “in the very handwriting of Enoch, the noted scribe…In the name of God the great…to Shemizaza and all his companions…let it be known to you…your licentiousness on earth…and the harm that you have done to it…until Raphael arrives, destruction is coming…a great flood…which will destroy all living things…[this is] the meaning of the matter…But for now [you can] loosen the bonds binding you to the devil…and pray.” (250).
OTHER OT BOOKS AND GIANTS
Most of the other books in the Charlesworth volumes have little bearing on our theme, but one, “The Sibylline Oracles”, is especially noteworthy insofar as it exhibits conspicuously the influence of the Greek poet Hesiod, (whom we shall be mentioning in another context), markedly his poems WORKS AND DAYS and THEOGONY. As in Hesiod, the Sibylline Oracles divide one half of world history into four eras, each one worse than the previous, followed by the fifth age in which the world is destroyed. The sixth age, the Golden Age, is said to be the first after the Flood. (see Book 1).
The “Oracles” or books were written in the period mid-second century BC, to the seventh century AD. (Hesiod, like Homer, lived in the eighth century BC).
Apart from the Hesiod similarity, there are many reflections of the Genesis story in the Oracles. The Watchers are mentioned, who were “mighty, of great form” as belonging to the second generation; the fifth generation, “a far inferior race” [than the fourth], “were insolent, much more than those Giants..” (Book 1; lines 100 and 120) The Watchers here are a generation of humans compared to the “Watchers” of 1 Enoch, 6-16, who are identified with the fallen “sons of God” in Genesis, 6. Their mastery of varied skills is common to both books as is their punishment by fire.
Hesiod’s account of man’s remote past
In Hesiod’s THEOGONY, the Giants spring from the earth when it is impregnated by the blood of Heaven, who had been castrated by Cronos (of whom more later) and they are also mentioned by Homer in his ODYSSEY. In the Septuagint version of Genesis, the Giants, as we know, are begotten by the fallen “sons of God”. Here the Giants are identified with the Watchers. Philo of Alexandria in his work DE GIGANTIBUS (Concerning the Giants) reflects allegorically on the treatment of the Giants while that other notable Jewish writer and historian, Josephus, in his ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS, remarks on the analogy between the story of Genesis 6 and the Giants of Greek mythology, another important theme we shall explore.
The Oracles speak of the seventh generation of Titans (giants) who will arise, “another grievous, mighty second race of earthborn men”. As J.J. Collins points out in his footnote (p. 342) in the Charlesworth edition, the Titan giants were in Greek mythology, the children of Heaven and Earth, Cronos being the younger of the Titans, as well as their leader. The revolt of the Titans against the supreme god, Zeus, is told in Hesiod’s THEOGONY, where they were defeated by the thunderbolts of Zeus.
Book 2 of the Oracles recounts how Uriel “the great angel…will lead all the mournful forms to judgement, especially those of ancient phantoms, Titans, and the Giants, and such as the Flood destroyed.” Part of Book 3 returns to the subject of the Titans: “the tenth generation of articulate men” arrived after the Deluge: “the time when the Flood came upon the men of old”. This was when “Cronos and Titan and Iapetus reigned [giants all] the best children of Gaia and Ouranos [Uranus, more commonly], whom men called earth and heaven, giving them a name because they were the first of articulate men”. (Book 3; lines 105-110).Hesiod’s THEOGONY parallels the account of the Titans here, but in Hesiod is interpreted euhemeristically (a notion that the classic gods are merely deified national kings and heroes and their miraculous feats exaggerated traditions of actual events).
In all, there are 14 books of “Oracles” – not all complete by any means. The concluding lines to Book 3 seems a fitting end (to this section mainly alluding to giants) by Sibylla (the Sybil,the author) : “when the world was deluged with waters, and a certain single approved man was left floating on the waters in a house of hewn wood with beasts and birds so that the world might be filled again, I was his daughter-in-law and I was of his blood.
The first things happened to him and all the latter things have been revealed, so let all these things from my mouth be accounted true”. (820-830)
One (Book 3) of the four books of Baruch makes a notable reference to the giants. Baruch is speaking to an angel who says that “When God made the flood upon the earth he drowned every firstling and he destroyed 104 thousand giants and the water rose above the hills…”. Baruch, mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, became an important name (or pseudonym) in later times. In the second century BC, 1 Baruch was written; after AD 70 (when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed by the Romans) Books 2 and 4 were written.
“The Testament of Solomon” from about the last century BC or the first AD, is a mixture of religious legend and belief. It possesses a fecund demonology for those interested in the subject. The introduction to the text by D.C. Duling (in Charlesworth) has a salient paragraph on the demonology in the book, which has a bearing on our interest and is worthy of mention (p. 953). The Testament, Duling points out, shares the belief that demons are fallen angels, or at least the offspring of fallen angels and human women. In Jewish literature these offspring are often thought of as giants, and the Testament reflects this view. The “demons” are primarily spirits who change forms [to have intercourse with mortal females?] who can also be perceived as gods if the names of their thwarting angels are unknown. “Their forms include heavenly bodies perceived as vices or persons, forces of nature…fire, wind..,mythical personages…dragons, satyrs, some female, some having more than one head…Beelzebub is their ruler. ”
Many of the demons are stars [significant!] or are associated with the stars. “Demons reside in constellations and because they can fly, often overhear God’s plans for the life of men and know the future.” They frequent desolate places; their main function is to initiate wickedness: immorality, natural disasters, deformity, disease and death.
The similarity between the “demons” described here and the (wicked) giants of the Old Testament is obvious.
More on the Watchers
“The Watchers” have been mentioned several times, because they (or the interpretation) is of great moment to our study as the progenitors of giant beings. We should attempt to say a little more about them, but prefacing our remarks by some truly percipient statements encountered in Julian Jaynes’ THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS. One of these is the notion that when reading anything about remote ancestors we have to be conscious of the fact that early civilisations had a profoundly different mentality from our own so that “the gods” for example were in no sense figments of the imagination, but indeed occupied man’s nervous system. All lands were owned by gods, and men were their slaves. As we see in the Bible, each city had its king, closely identified with the city-state god.
One of the biblical cities (or territories) is called Shumer, or Shinar and it is generally thought that the “cradle” of civilisation was Sumer: this name literally means “land of the Watchers”. Graham Hancock, in FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS, suggests that the Watchers were intermediaries between men and god. The Egyptian Book of the Dead uses the term Watchers: “Deliver thou the scribe Nebseni whose word is truth, from the Watchers…may these Watchers never gain mastery over me…” For the ancient Egyptians, the Watchers were the god-like creatures, Anubis, Horus and other “sovereign princes”. As we saw a class of evil angels is first described in 1 Enoch as the Watchers; In Jubilees we learn that at first the Watcher angels were good, sent to do uprightness and bring judgement on earth, as the text says. Some of them “fell” we know and dwelt in the third heaven or in hell; the good Watchers resided in the fifth heaven.
A paragraph towards the end of the Alta-Vista Internet pages on “The Sons of God” which comments on the books of Enoch and Jubilees seems most apposite to conclude this section and to remind us of a statement made earlier: Jewish religious authorities concerned that the growing worship of angels would be a threat to belief in one God, excised works like that of Enoch and Jubilees fron canonical literature…making them part of what is now known as the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. In an attempt at clarification, I must point out (or repeat) that some scholars prefer the expression deutero-canonical to pseudepigrapha, so that one may encounter bibles (and studies) where only one of these terms is used,
An interesting remark is encountered in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where he says that women should keep their heads covered in church “because of the w/Watchers” [meaning angelic beings] (Cor; 11: 5-10).
Philo and giants
Philo of Alexandria (C. 30 BC to c 40 AD) wrote many tracts on religious themes among which was the DE GIGANTIBUS (on Giants). Philo regarded the Scriptures he interpreted allegorically as the inspired word of God and this of course colours all his judgements. For him, the heroes of the Scriptures are demi-gods, possessing a greatness above nature, However he does speak of the giants as “evil ones…cloaking themselves under the name of angels..” (DE GIGANTIBUS, p. 455 in the Loeb Classical Library edition) and he seemingly takes their existence seriously. Philo was one of the most influential of early writers; it may be that his interpretation of the “sons of God” as “they who live in the knowledge of the One..” (“On the Confusion of Tongues”, section 145), has much to recommend it.
Philo interpreted the OT allegorically whereby mythical elements could be rendered acceptable. According to him, the so-called “mythical” stories of the OT possess an inner meaning whereas pagan myths do not. As R. Williamson says in JEWS IN THE HELLENISTIC WORLD, p. 173, “Philo is quite sure that Moses did not introduce myths into what he wrote since ‘myth-making is a thing most alien to him’ “. (DE GIGANTIBUS, 58) and with reference to Genesis, 6;4, Philo writes that “it is no myth at all of giants that he [Moses] sets before us; rather he wishes to show you that some men are earth-born, some heaven-born and some God-born” (60). The reference to the “myths of the poets about the giants” (58) may be, as Williamson says, an allusion to Homer who did record myths.
THE “MESSAGE” OF THE APOCALYPTIC TEXTS
Some apocalyptic literature is non-canonical, which means as we have learnt, that it is part of apocrypa. In this context an apocalyptic text simply means that basically it purports to tell of future happenings. One of the most rewarding of this type of script we have considered: the Book of Enoch. J.C. Burkitt transposed a series of lectures he gave (1913) on “Jewish and Christian Apocalypses” into a small but percipient book (written for the British Academy) on this subject, in which discussion on the Book of Enoch predominates. A quotation from Burkitt appears to sum up well the situation when apocalyptic writing flourished. “They are [the apocalypses] the most characteristic survival of what I will venture to call…the heroic age of Jewish history, the age when the nation attempted to realise in action the part of the peculiar people of God”. (p.15). The Book of Enoch is an attempt, says Burkitt, to unify the world in all its aspects, a world which is the national destiny of God’s chosen people. It contains a serious attempt to account for the presence of evil in human history. “Enoch” and the gospel of St Matthew are similar in these aims, but it is instructive to know that the original is Enoch – not the other way round. In fact the gospels can only be really appreciated by a prior knowledge of the Book/s of Enoch. The giants, for instance, to Enoch and to his readers (or hearers) were real figures who, in later ages, had to be overcome. Thus the apocalypse was intended as an encouragement for their contemporaries, as Burkitt points out, so that the Jews were nerved to continue their struggle to achieve their national ideals…
Revelation according to St John
There is no doubt however that the most significant, (or well known) book of apocalyptic writing is the “Revelation” attributed to the Christian prophet John (not of course the Apostle) since he was writing about the end of the first century AD, long after the martyrdom of Jesus. John focussed on the vision of the ancient prophets regarding a “Golden Age” for Israel and the coming of a Jewish Messiah – which might or might not be imminent. John truly believed that the messages he wrote down had indeed come directly from God.
“Apocalyptic proper, ” says H.S. Bellamy, “is mythological reportage of cosmic and terrestial events which took place in the dim past…” (THE BOOK OF REVELATION IS HISTORY; his introduction, p. 10). As long as we do not understand the term “mythological” as meaning not true, (a point we have made before) this seems a good definition. (Bellamy wrote a number of very interesting books in the 40s about biblical and cosmic themes.) Another quote from Bellamy: “The mythology of Revelation is infinitely richer than that of the books of Daniel, Exekiel, Isaiah and of Enoch and others…indeed on closer investigation the bulk of the Book of Revelation is found to be derived from unknown other, extra biblical sources”. (Introduction, p. 14)
Bellamy, Hoerbiger and earth history
Reading Bellamy it is clear that he had an axe to grind; his was no task of exegesis or commentary; the reason why he wrote his book “is the interpretation of the ‘mythological’ passages of the Book of Revelation”. For him, Revelation is a collection of cosmological myths, and this material he maintains is translated or adapted from some unknown source of folk-literature and NOT compiled from Old Testament texts.
Bellamy was a disciple of Hoerbiger who wrote his influential (and revolutionary) books on cosmic theory in an attempt to explain some of the most puzzling and abiding problems in any consideration of earth’s history. Hans Hoerbiger was an Austrian cosmologist who advanced his theories largely in the second decade of the twentieth century. We shall learn more of him in a later chapter. Suffice it to say here that Bellamy’s interpretation of the often seemingly weird descriptions and events met in the Book of Revelation, are all coloured (perhaps it would be better to use the word, informed) by Hoerbiger’s cosmogonic theory. Accordingly, while of course there is no substitute for reading Revelation as THE supreme example of apocalyptic literature, it is fascinating to see Bellamy’s explanations of an otherwise very puzzling text.
We cannot here go into these interpretations, but we will be looking at some of the theories which occupied Bellamy and Hoerbiger a liitle later, as they relate to giants and gigantism. At this juncture we simply introduce them and their beliefs.
So far, literary allusion to giant beings and their activities has been the main theme. We have laid under contribution biblical and extra-biblical material to this end. Time now to explore and examine archaeological and related evidence for some of these biblical statements (and events) which will involve an element of relevant research into biblical history and that of the Middle and Near East. Ancient wonders of the world, and mysterious constructions in various parts of the world, including Britain, South America, the strange stories of the walls (and Tower) of Babylon and of Jericho, all have been associated with giants at various times by various writers.
© A.B. Finlay Ph.D