Having posted The Orthodox Church on Angels, and more specifically Orthodox Priest Lawrence Farley writing “Of Giants and Grasshoppers”, I thought to consider the teaching of another Orthodox priest, Fr. Stephen De Young’s article, Here There Be Giants which, just as Farley’s, was posted to the Ancient Faith Ministries website: “The V. Rev. Dr. Stephen De Young is Pastor of Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. He holds a PhD in Biblical Studies from Amridge University.”
He rightly notes, “In recent times, the rediscovery of the original ancient context of Genesis 6:1-4 has led to a fascination with the subject of the ‘Nephilim’, who are here said to be produced through sexual immorality involving angelic beings and human women” and that “In some quarters, this has been developed into full-fledged conspiracy theories regarding these ‘Nephilim’ still existing in our world today.”
Such is the doings of the pop-researchers (and some of their scholarly cohorts) who suffer from that which I term Gigorexia Nervosa.*
He notes that the latter (who are “fascinated by crypto-archaeology” and “produce doctored photos”) propose “a counter to a re-reading of the Genesis and later texts, begun by St. Augustine, which reads these texts in a de-mythologized way, seeing all involved parties as human.”
Augustine’s view is actually quite a late one, historically speaking, and is also very nuanced: see my book On the Genesis 6 Affair’s Sons of God: Angels or Not? A survey of early Jewish and Christian commentaries including notes on giants and the Nephilim. But yes, he is largely looked to for what came to be known as the Sethite view which took a different view from the original, traditional, and majority view among the earliest Jews and Christians alike (for many centuries) which was the Angel view.
Stephen De Young also rightly notes, “Understanding this text, and the traditions which lie behind this text, however, is critical to understanding later narratives within the Torah, the entire arc of the book of Joshua and his conquest, and even the early history of monarchic Israel in the books of Samuel.”
This is because pop-researchers, et al., attempt to apologize (in more ways than one) for the conquering narratives by asserting that it merely pertained to wiping out Nephilim—since, apparently and by their implication, God failed to do so when, try as He may, He sent a flood which turned out to be a waste in whole or part.
Stephen De Young asserts, “The word ‘Nephilim’, sometimes left untranslated in English translations of 6:4, does indeed refer to ‘giants.’” He does note, “Some have sought its origin in the Hebrew word ‘naphal’, arguing for a translation of ‘fallen ones’, connected to the fall of the angelic beings involved. The verb, however, would be the wrong conjugation, and be something closer to ‘those fallen upon.’”
He also refers to “the fact that the Aramaic word ‘nephilin’ means ‘giants.’ While we wait for him to tell us what he means by the vague, generic, subjective, and multi-usage English word “giant,” note that the J. Edward Wright Endowed Professor of Judaic Studies, who is J. Edward Wright, Ph.D. himself, and who is the Director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona noted, “The term traditionally translated as ‘giants’ in both the Greek Septuagint (γιγαντες) and now in English is נפילים nephilim, a term based on the root נפל npl meaning ‘fall.’ It has nothing to do with size” and specifies that this goes for both Hebrew and Aramaic as “The root npl in Aramaic also means fall and not giants.”**
Stephen De Young went on to say that giant, “is certainly the understanding taken by the Septuagint translators, who render the word ‘gigantes’” but he does not note that, that word means earth-born.
He also said, “the English word ‘giant’ this is often a reference to physical size, but” can “describe a tyrant…a bully or a thug” even if “It includes both size and demeanor.” This is insisting much too much or, it is treating a word grammatically (in an isolated manner) and not contextually. Within the context of the Bible, neither Nephilim nor gigantes nor giants implies anything about height at all.
In fact, the Septuagint translators rendered (didn’t translate) Nephilim and also Rephaim and/but also gibborim all as gigantes and those three very different words with very different etymology do not all mean what Stephen De Young means by giant. In fact, it is literally impossible that gibborim means giant since it really means might/mighty and is applied to Nephilim (Genesis 6:4), sure, but also to Nimrod (Genesis 10:8), Angels (Psalm 103:20), Boaz (Ruth 2:1), some of King David’s soldiers (1 Chronicles 11:11), even God Himself (Isaiah 9:6).
Stephen De Young references what he views as a correlation between, “Later Second Temple Jewish literature” and “the ancient Babylonian traditions” such as, “a group of seven gods called the ‘apkallu’…who served as…advisor” to pre and post-flood kings. Henotes, “the hero Gilgamesh, are said to be ‘2/3 apkallu’, or the product of divine and human coupling.”
As with much ancient mythology, there are variations and so I will leave the interested reader to consult “Appendix: On the Apkallu as per Amar Annus” of my book What Does the Bible Say About Giants and Nephilim?
He tells us “The Book of the Giants from the Dead Sea Scrolls identifies Gilgamesh as one of the Nephilim.” This may be going a bit too far as the two references to Gilgamesh are that someone was, “forced to have a dream…the sleep of my eyes [vanished], to let me see a vision. Now I know that on…Gilgamesh…” (the ellipses indicating lacunas) and that the one who dreamed, “told them what Gilgamesh said to him” apparently, in the dream.
Stephen De Young notes, “Genesis can therefore be seen to be interpreting what was, for its original hearers, the historical record of gods and kings through a very different theological lens” and that, “Similar elements are found in cultures throughout the ancient world, including for example the Greek story of the ‘Gigantomachy’, or war with the giants, and the stories of heroes like Herakles or Achilles with divine and human parents.”
It seems that one reason that many, if not all, ancient cultures share similar ancient stories is that post-Tower of Babel, what was then commonly known and shared history among people who lived in relative proximity was dispersed through the Earth and eventually came to be called myth and legend.
Now, try as one may demand to commit a word-concept fallacy in demanding that Nephilim/naphal/naphiyla/gigantes/giants refers to unusual height, the fact is that Genesis contains no physical description of Nephilim whatsoever—more on this to come.
Stephen De Young claims, “Genesis 6 communicates, these ‘giants’ were present on the earth not only in the time of the flood of Noah, but also after (Gen 6:4)” yet, that verse states no such thing. Rather, it reads, “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.”
He was just inserting the flood into that verse. Yet, 1) the flood is not even mentioned for the very first time until v. 17 (a full 13 vss. later) and 2) the verse told us to what days (those and afterward) it referred to and it was, “when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.”
Yet, Stephen De Young goes on to claim, “They,” the Gen 6 Nephilim, “continue to appear in the early history of Israel as recounted in the latter part of the Torah, the book of Joshua, and Samuel in the form of multiple tribes” which is simply not the case.
Yet, he used artificially inserting the flood into a verse that does not refer to it, to claim post-flood Nephilim and to then claim, “Israel will expressly be sent by God to annihilate the giants” which, among other things, again implies that God failed: He could not get the job done via the flood.
With that premise of his, he goes on directly to write, “Likely the most famous of these giants in Israel’s early history is Og, the king of Bashan” but Og was not a Nephil, he was a Repha.
When he says, “Og is identified as a giant in Deuteronomy 3:11” he is, sadly, lost in pop-research territory since that verse has him as what I just noted, a Repha: Stephen De Young is just reading into what his Bible seems to have a “giant” (note that he has not even attempted to argue that Repha means giant, which it does not) and/or he is reading into the size of his “bed.”
Yet, we’ve no physical description of him at all.
He goes on to note, “It is not merely the size of the bed suggesting Og to be a giant, but the fact that this bed exactly matches the dimensions and description of a ritual bed found in excavations of the ziggurat at Etemenanki, which was used for pagan sexual rituals.”
Indeed, so it was not a bed upon which Og slept, it was a ritual object.
Yet, Stephen De Young goes on to argue, “Og is therefore here depicted as the product of demonic fornication” but how so (since that is certainly not even close to being biblical)? He goes on to claim that, “Og and his people are completely eradicated from the land due to his origins,” which is another statement for which there is zero biblical support.
He then goes on to refer to Og’s, “demonic origin” but he jumped to that from that his, “bed exactly matches…a ritual bed…for pagan sexual rituals” ergo, Og was “the product of demonic fornication.”
We have some problems at this point:
That he owned such a bed does not mean he was conceived upon it.
That such a bed was actually, literally, really for that purpose—and I mean functionally, not just in mythological claims—is a lot to grant.
That is so especially when we would then have to have a way for demons (who are disincarnated, incorporeal, spirits (proper)) somehow being able to fornicate. The Gen 6 affair involved Angels, not demons—this gets very technical so I will leave the interested reader to start with my article Demons Ex Machina: What Are Demons?
However, in the comments section to the article, he wrote the following in reply to a question, “ritual beds found in ziggurats were places where priests engaged in ritual intercourse with temple prostitutes. But when the rituals were described by the ancient pagans, they said that Baal and Asherah or Marduk and Sarpanittum were engaging in sexual acts during those rituals.”
In that case, “Og is therefore” not “here depicted as the product of demonic fornication” but as the offspring of a priest and prostitute.
Overall, we have no reason to think that Og was unusually tall, nor referred to as such, nor the result of demonic fornication.
And keep in mind that this was supposed to be evidence of post-flood Nephilim.
Stephen De Young claims that in many “passages, the ‘Rephaim’ are described as the denizens of Sheol or Hades (cf. Proverbs 2:18, 9:18, 21:16, Job 26:5-6)” but he seems to be reading into the root word repha which ranges in meaning and/or usage from healing to dead. Yet, if they are dead then well, they are indeed dead, dead denizens of Sheol or Hades.
He notes, “in Second Temple Judaism the idea that many if not most of the demonic beings encountered, for example, possessing individuals are in fact the spirits of these ancient kings, dead Nephilim.” I am tempted to sarcastically end that statement with, “Thus saith folklore within Jubilees and 1 Enoch/Ethiopic Enoch”: which, being Second Temple Era texts, date from 516 BC-70 AD which is millennia after the Torah was written—see my books The Apocryphal Nephilim and Giants Encountering Sons of God, Nephilim, and Giants in Extra-Biblical Texts and In Consideration of the Book(s) of Enoch.
But note that he has been referring to Rephaim as “dead Nephilim” without having even attempted to establish any such a thing.
Stephen De Young then alerts us to that “The other major Biblical ‘tribe’ of giants is the ‘Anakim’” and notes, “In Arabic traditions, Og himself is referred to as ‘Uj ibn-Anaq.’” That is the case due to that Anakim were not exactly a tribe but were a clan of the Rephaim tribe: they were a subgroup.
Recall that I wrote, “more on this to come” well, we now come to what that was about since he writes, “In Numbers 13, 12 spies are sent to scout out the land as the people of Israel draw near to Canaan. The spies return and report that they have seen the ‘Anakim’ in the land, in the south, near Hebron, and that the ‘Anakim’ are Nephilim (Num 13:22, 28, 33).” This is much too generic and misses the entire point of the Numbers 13 narrative. Yes, “12 spies are sent” but it is not accurate that “The spies,” the “12 spies,” return and report any such a thing.
Rather, a report is presented, which is accepted as is, that does not say a single word about Nephilim but did list the people groups seen in the land. Then a bifurcation occurs with Caleb (and Joshua) opposing the 10 others who first discouraged obedience to God and then were said to present an “evil report” wherein the merely asserts five things that are unbacked by even one other single verse in the whole Bible.
They were unfaithful, disloyal, contradictory, embellishers whom God rebuked. They also contradicted Caleb, Joshua, Moses, God, and the rest of the entire Bible since each of those affirm Anakim, et al., in the land but never say a single word about Nephilim being therein nor that Anakim are related to Nephilim in any way, shape, or form.
Thus, to conclude that “‘Anakim’ are Nephilim” one is literally forced to exclusively rely on one single verse stated by some of the least reliable people in the Bible when they were in such a state of fear that they concocted a “Don’t go in the woods!” type of fear-mongering, scare-tactic tall tale (and there are even more problems with Numbers 13:32-33, including textual issues).
Stephen De Young notes, “Deuteronomy identifies the ‘Anakim’ as related to the ‘Rephaim’, and with a third group of giants whom the Moabites referred to as the ‘Emim.’” Yet, he is misreading his Bible since that Emim were “a third group of giants” merely means that the text was identifying them as also being Rephaim and that is all.
Such is how he can go on to claim that “the conquest” pertains to Nephilim (by any other name) even though he, exclusively relying on the unreliable, can even then only get Anakim related to Nephilim (in some mysteriously un-elucidated manner—which also implies that God failed) but not all Rephaim.
He argues, “God commands complete and total destruction…in which the ‘Anakim’ dwell…‘Anakim’ have not been cited are spared total annihilation…cut off all the ‘Anakim’” and then jumps from the specific Hebrew term Anakim to the vague, generic, subjective, and multi-usage English term, “the final eradication of the giants.”
He even asserts, “These battles are described, with details concerning the size and power of these giants” but of “These,” plural, “battles,” plural, he can only offer one single citation (since such is not the case whatsoever) about one single “giant” in directing us to “2 Samuel 21:15-22.” Well, that is about Goliath who, most reliably, was just shy of 7 ft.: four cubits and a span according to the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Flavius Josephus—all which predate the Masoretic Text which has him at six cubits and a span.
Within the comments section to the article, Stephen De Yong wrote, “Nailing down exactly what the giants were historically is difficult for a couple of reasons,” the first of which, I will note, is people go comment about “giants” without bothering to accurately deal with the issues in even employing that term in the first place.
He wrote, “the giants described in scripture are said to be the product of demonic sexual immorality, and to be demonic beings who were nonetheless born from a human woman.” This is a very confused statement since he made etymological errors, he asserted post-flood Nephilim without reliable evidence, he likewise asserted Anakim being related to Nephilim, he told us of people who were unusually tall (giants) even if we have no idea of their height, and has demons producing offspring (in one way or another).
In short, there is no indication whatsoever that Anakim nor any Rephaim (nor anyone post-flood) were Nephilim nor related to them nor had the same or even similar parentage.
Someone asked him about how, “Often when Orthodox expounded on the conquest narratives, taking a symbolic/allegorical approach, that we are commanded to dash our passions on the rocks,” which is a case of merely sermonizing, “sometimes they seemed to de-historicize the events,” indeed.
Stephen De Young replied, in part, “Origen, the prime example of allegorical interpretation, says at the beginning of his commentary on Joshua that the teaching of the book would be horrible if it did not ‘have the figure (figura) of spiritual warfare’…Joshua is worthwhile because he’s found a way to interpret it ahistorically. However, elsewhere Origen makes it clear that he accepts the existence of the giants and the traditions discussed in this blog post.”
Sadly, no one dealt with the reasons that God Himself gave for such conquering. They had nothing to do with any such things but were about unethical sexual practices, about ritual human/child sacrifice, etc.: and with some being afforded centuries to repent but not doing so—see chapter “Herem: Were Post-Flood Nephilim Dedicated to Destruction?” of my book What Does the Bible Say About Giants and Nephilim? A Styled Giantology and Nephilology.
Someone noted, “In your previous post you say God assigned the various nations to the sons of God (His angels), and the nations began to worship them as gods and became enslaved to them. I am not entirely clear on who these sons of God are.”
The reply was, in part, “I think part of the confusion might be because of the idea that all of the angels that fell fell along with Satan himself at a single event before the creation of the world.”
There are at least three problems with that view: 1) there’s no indication that any Angels “fell along with Satan,” 2) there actually is only a onetime fall of Angels in the Bible, and 3) there is no indication that it was “before the creation of the world.”
Let us review:
This is very technical so I will direct the interested readers to my book What Does the Bible Say About the Devil Satan? A Styled Satanology.
Yet, in short, Revelation chap. 12 provides the timeline we need for a succinct note: v. 3 has Satan as, already, a “great red dragon” and notes, “His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.”
Satan’s fallen action, his sin, is recorded in Genesis chap. 3 thus, he fell and sometime after falling, he did something to cause Angels to fall.
The fall of Angels was before what v. 5 has as that Revelation 12’s “woman…gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne” which refers to Jesus’s birth and ascension. The fall of Angels, their sin, is recorded in Genesis 6.
And, as a side note, it was then, after Jesus’ ascension, that, “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (vss. 7-8). Thus, the war in heaven was/is post-Jesus’-resurrection: whether it has already taken place yet or not is another issue.
Jude and 2 Peter 2 refer to sinful Angels, with Peter putting their sinful event at pre-Sodom and Gomorrah times which fits the Genesis 6 timeline. If they were not referring to the Genesis 6 affair then, pray tell, to what, to when, were they referring since, again, there is only a one time fall/sin of Angels in the Bible.
Yet, Stephen De Young went on to note, “The perspective of scripture, echoed by the early Fathers, is that there were several groups of angelic beings who fell. The fall of Satan happened in Genesis 3, as further described by Isaiah and Ezekiel. Another group of angelic beings falls in Genesis 4-6, and is punished with imprisonment in the abyss as described by Ss. Peter and Jude.. A third group, from the ‘sons of God’ to whom the nations are allotted in Deuteronomy 32 then also fall, and become liable to judgment as described in Psalm 82.”
This is not, “The perspective of scripture” since it commits a category error and that error is that within the context of the fall/sin of Angels, he counts, “The fall of Satan.” Yet, Satan is a Cherub (Ezekiel 28:14), not an Angel: the Orthodox Church commits category errors that violate the law of identity when it comes to Angels, Cherubim, and Seraphim—see my article The Orthodox Church on Angels.
Up until this point, I have been unaware of anyone who ever claimed that a, “group of angelic beings falls in Genesis” 4-5, I am only aware of such a view of chap. 6.
As a side note, it is Peter who specifies that they are imprisoned but in Tartarus, actually, not technically in, “the abyss”: yet, I am just being technical since in the view of some Greek mythology Tartarus is the deepest part of the Abyss.
As for, “the ‘sons of God’ to whom the nations are allotted,” that is something one will have to grant (I dealt with why that claim is an issue in chap. “God’s Administrative Divine Council” of my book What Does the Bible Say About Various Paranormal Entities? A Styled Paranormology).
In short, an additional fall is not necessitated since it could be that, “the ‘sons of God’ to whom the nations are allotted” (which he asserts, “then also fall” but such is not in the text) were not loyal Angels who later fell but were already fallen ones aka demons: after all, “They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded” (Deuteronomy 32:17), “They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons” (Psalms 106:37), “what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20), etc.
Sadly, the same person noted, “The story of Joshua and the conquest of Canaan has to be one of the most difficult things to reconcile in light of a good and merciful God. But it was not so anymore after your final point in the last paragraph that explains the concepts of the ancients and their purpose in fighting these wars. That was really very helpful Father.”
What will happen when this person realizes that his explanation is fallaciously unbiblical?A certain Fr. Philip Kontos commented, “I’ve always thought that since the angels and demons are incorporeal, the question would arise as to how the demons could spawn children.” This is a fundamentally fallacious premise since Angels are corporeal but demons are not. Thus, again, demons cannot spawn children but Angels can.
Such errors inevitably lead to the invention of manner whereby to somehow manage to still get Nephilim, by any other name, past the flood. This priest wrote, “Your description of the ritual beds for the ceremonial acts by the priests with women, perhaps clears that up. In many pagan cults, the priests (or laymen) can become possessed by the spirits or ‘gods’ and have no recollection of what they said or did during the possession.”
Yet, he first needs to establish how a demon possessed human mating with another human (possessed or not) results in well: what exactly, a demon baby?
The priest also asked, “Could one look at it that way: as the result of demonic possession and occultic ritual, rather than a direct fallen angel with human interaction?” Some have proposed such ideas but whatever variation they take, what they have in common is a faulty premise and a moving away from the original, traditional, and majority view among the earliest Jews and Christians alike (I know not if Kontos is an Orthodox priest but the Orthodox Church is supposed to maintain such ancient traditions).
Someone chimed in thusly, “Possession and ritual sexual practices are part of many pagan religions,” but that is generic and so it does not draw lines between our data points.
Someone else referenced how “In the context of the conquest narratives being spiritual in nature as well as physical, what do we as Orthodox Christians make of the Biblical injunctions” and referenced two such occasions to which Stephen De Young replies thusly, “Numbers 31…The two most heinous sins in the Torah, which have the effect of tainting the land itself, of corrupting God’s creation, are idolatry and sexual immorality…Israel have allowed them to be seduced into sexual worship of Baal…men are executed for their sins in this matter, the women who participated in this sexual immorality are executed…”
I quoted that to point out what I already have: this had nothing to do with Nephilim nor relation to Nephilim (by any other name—and I do realize that this was not really a conquest narrative).
The other was, “Deuteronomy 20…other nations in the world at this time had no such rules [“limitations on warfare”]. War was total…a differentiation is made between the particular tribes and people groups associated with the Anakim, who are to be destroyed entirely…” and on it goes to the affect that it has nothing to do with Nephilim nor relation to Nephilim.
Stephen De Young goes on to elucidate, “other nations he allowed to go their own way, until the cup of their iniquity is full, and then he brought his wrath down upon them…The Assyrians and Babylonians did not exercise the restraint in warfare…Assyria and Babylon are both promised that when their sins have reached their full measure, wrath will befall them…” and again, nothing to do with Nephilim nor relation to them.
Another commentator noted, “I’ve read some things by Dr. Michael Heiser, and this dovetails beautifully with his work” which is sadly true as Heiser also asserts post-flood Nephilim—see my article Rebuttal to Michael Heiser’s “All I Want for Christmas is Another Flawed Nephilim Rebuttal.”
This person also noted, “knowing the Israelites were slaying communities of hybrids bent on evil makes much more sense than viewing those texts through the modern lens of random genocide.”
Not only is there no biblical evidence of any such thing whatsoever but it is incredibly dangerous to claim that some humans are not human—such has become such a pop-researcher’s trend that in my book Nephilim and Giants As Per Pop-Researchers I included a very disturbing chap. titled, “Nephil Kampf.”
Thus, overall Stephen De Young’s article contains some good and solid data points yet, along with fallacies, errors, vagaries, and pseudo-connections between data points.
* Gigorexia Nervosa is a term I coined to mean obsessively seeking to see giants and making them up where they’re nowhere to be seen.
** Private communique with me.
A plea: I have to pay for server usage and have made all content on this website free and always will. I support my family on one income and do research, writing, videos, etc. as a hobby. If you can even spare $1.00 as a donation, please do so: it may not seem like much but if each person reading this would do so, even every now and then, it would add up and really, really help out. Here is my donate/paypal page.