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B. J. Oropeza’s Patheos article: Who Are, “Giants” in the Bible? Understanding the Nephilim of Genesis 6 and Numbers 13

We will herein review Prof. B. J. Oropeza’s article, “Who Are, “Giants” in the Bible? Understanding the Nephilim of Genesis 6 and Numbers 13,” Patheos, March 26, 2023: Oropeza is a Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific University.

Oropeza begins by noting, “In the Old Testament of the Bible we read about giants who lived on the earth (Genesis 6; Numbers 13). These extra-large humans are called in Hebrew the Nephilim, though other names for giants include the Rephaim and the Anakim.”

Thus, by the vague, generic, subjective, and multi-usage modern English word, “giants,” Oropeza is referring to personages mentioned in Genesis 6 and Numbers 13 who are Nephilim in the former and Nephilim and/or Anakim in the latter (depending on the rendering and well, Anakim in the latter as per non-LXX versions).

Yet, Oropeza also means, “extra-large humans” ranging from, “Nephilim” to, “Rephaim and the Anakim.”

Nephilim were strictly pre-flood hybrids. The Num 13 verse about them (v. 33) is from an, “evil report” by utterly unreliable guys whom God rebuked so we shouldn’t believe them and that is the only place wherefrom we get that Nephilim were, “extra-large” so we must reject that as well.

In short (pun intended), we’ve no reliable physical description of them.

From non-LXX versions of that, “evil report,” we also get a correlation between Nephilim and Anakim so, we must reject that as well.

Rephaim were strictly post-flood humans, the tribe of which Anakim were a clan, who were taller, on average, than 5.0-5.3 ft.

Thus, there is no reliable correlation between Nephilim, Rephaim, and Anakim and no reliable indication that any of them were, “extra-large”—yet, I grant that, “extra-large” is a subjective term.

B. J. Oropeza wrote, “The Hebrew word נְפִלִים [Nephilim] is left untranslated as Nephilim in most English Versions…However, the King James Version, New King James Version, the Septuagint (LXX), as well as the Latin Vulgate, translate this word as ‘giants’ after the Greek word, γίγαντες (gigantes).”

That is a bit problematic since the LXX and Vulgate do not translate as, “giants” since that’s an English word but the LXX is Greek and the Vulgate is Latin.

Rather, both of those render (don’t even translate) as, “gigantes” which, Oropeza does not tell us means, “earth-born.”

Neither the Hebrew, nor Greek, nor Latin, nor English are telling us anything about height whatsoever: such is not the case with the usage of, “gigantes” nor, “giants.” B. J. Oropeza ends up noting, “the meaning of the word Nephilim gives us little to go on regarding their stature.”

Oropeza states that one, “speculation about the origin of the term Nephilim…is that these beings were the offspring of the sons of God, who were fallen angels” and that, “It is then inferred from this that these offspring grew exceptionally large” but we have not been given any reliable reason to think that they were subjectively unusually tall.

From that, we are quickly told, “ancient Jewish and Christian sources…mention the giants (compare 1 Enoch 6–11; 15–16; Jubilees 5:1–10; 7:21–22; Testament of Reuben 5.5–6; Philo, Questions on Genesis I.92; Justin Martyr, Second Apology 5).”

That is a bit misleading since what is ancient to us is still from millennia after the Torah. Thus, they are all very much latter-day tall-tales.
B. J. Oropeza wrote, “either God completely wiped them out in the Flood” or, “they may have been in some sense predecessors of the giants who were later destroyed by the Israelites” but there is zero reliable indication of any such a thing: and it implies that God failed—He meant to be rid of them but couldn’t get the job done, He must have missed a loophole, the flood was much of a waste, etc.

On this point, B. J. Oropeza tells us, “When Moses sent the twelve tribal leaders to spy out the land of Canaan, they brought back a discouraging report in Numbers 13:32–33: ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim)…’”

But that is misleading since it was not, “the twelve” who said that but ten of them: the ten unfaithful, disloyal, contradictory, embellishers who presented an, “evil report” and were rebuked by God: they just made up a fear-mongering scare-tactic tall-tale.

But Oropeza does go on to write of, “the spies who were lying or at best exaggerating.”

Yet, we are told, “This passage connects the Nephilim with the Anakim” which is not the case in the LXX, by the way. Also, it matters not since it was just a tall-tale which contradicted Moses, Caleb, Joshua, God, and the rest of the whole Bible.

We are told Anakim, “latter are comparable in size with the Rephaim” but biblically, we are told that Rephaim, in general (to include Anakim) were, “tall” but that’s subjective to being taller than the average Israelite male who, in those days, were 5.0-5.3 ft.

B. J. Oropeza notes, “Og, king of Bashan, was a Rephaite whose bed or sarcophagus measured 9 by 4 cubits (perhaps thirteen feet long and six feet wide: Deut 3:11).” Indeed, we don’t have a reliable physical description of him: see my book The King, Og of Bashan, is Dead: The Man, the Myth, the Legend—of a Nephilim Giant?

Moreover, we are told, “The gigantic Philistine warrior, Goliath, was said to be…4.5 cubits is not too impressive (a little over 6 1/2 feet tall based on the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls : 4Q Sam [1 Sam 17:4]). The Hebrew and Vulgate texts have him at 6.5 cubits (over 9 1/2 feet tall).”

Indeed, the LXX and Dead Sea Scrolls and Flavius Josephus have him at just shy of 7 ft. (again, compared to 5.0-5.3 ft.) but the latter Vulgate and Masoretic have him taller.
B. J. Oropeza notes, “the size of these giants in no way compares with the Nephilim of Genesis 6 as described in non-canonical books, such as the Damascus Document (Dead Sea Scrolls)—these giants are the height of cedars and their bodies like mountains (CD 2.18–19). Even more impressive (or unbelievable) is 1 Enoch 7 that has them at three hundred cubits high…”

Indeed, in order to get very, very tall Nephilim one has to either believe utterly unreliable guys whom God rebuked or appeal to folklore from millennia later.

Incidentally, 1 Enoch does not have them at, “three hundred cubits” but rather, at 3,000 ells which is MILES tall which his great folklore but poor reality—see my book In Consideration of the Book(s) of Enoch.

Note carefully how Oropeza answers, “Did Descendants of the Nephilim Exist After the Flood?” which is, “Did the Nephilim survive the great Flood of Genesis 6–9? In Numbers 13:33, however, their name appears again.”

Of course, that the name (a word) appeared has no correlation to whether they were actually alive at the time.

Furthermore, “the event of Israel’s travels in the wilderness, depicted in Numbers, occurs centuries after the Flood. If the Israelites saw the Nephilim in the land of Canaan, are we to assume that the offspring survived the flood of Noah?”

Oddly, Oropeza already identified the ten spies as, “lying or at best exaggerating” and actually read, “Nephilim” as a reference to, “Anakim” yet, now that very same single verse from an, “evil report” serves as the premise for possible post-flood Nephilim.

So, “are we to assume that the offspring survived the flood of Noah?” well, only if we want to contradict the Bible five times: Genesis 7:7, 23; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; and 2 Peter 2:5.

As for, “Flood Survivors?” we are told, “If we assume this to be the case (and not an inconsistency), the great Flood may be understood as a local one, affecting the region of Mesopotamia but not other regions.”

Well, the scope of the flood is actually irrelevant to Nephilology since they either didn’t survive it because it was global or because they lived in the flooded region: either way, they didn’t make it past the flood in any way, shape, or form.

Oropeza notes, “it could be surmised that some of the Nephilim escaped the flood” but that would be, “inconsistency.”

Yet, it is noted, “Some scholars interpret the phrase, ‘and also afterward’ in Genesis 6:4 as referring to a time after the Flood, anticipating mention of the Nephilim in Numbers 13:33.”

Yet, such scholars are mistaken since, again, it contradicts the Bible five times and it also violates the context. The, “afterward” statement has nothing to do with the flood—in fact, the flood isn’t even mentioned for the very first time until a full 13 vss. later, v. 17.

The, “afterward” is, “afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them” which was, “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them” as per v. 1.

Thus, it simply informs us that such mating took place initially, at the v. 1 timestamp, and thereafter, such that they kept taking place: but that is all pre-flood.
At least B. J. Oropeza tells us, “this interpretation is hard to reconcile with the context of Genesis 6—9, which depicts the flood as wiping out all human life except Noah’s family (Gen 6:5—7:23; esp. 7:19).”

Oropeza thinks that, “Consistent with this view, the phrase ‘and also afterward’ could mean that the Nephilim were living at the time before the Flood and also ‘after’ the advent of the sons of God.”

Yet, that is too much of a stretch: especially since the contextual focus of the narrative are the son of God and daughters of men—their attraction, marriages, and offspring. Thus, it would make for an odd narrative if Nephilim were artificially inserted into it as if merely happenstantially and with nothing more being said about them that they just so happened to be around at the time.

B. J. Oropeza does note, “this alternative explanation does not explain how the Nephilim reappear in Numbers 13” but we already have an answer to that: one that is given to us by the narrative of Num chaps 13 and 14.

We are told that an option is that, “the Nephilim in Genesis 6 and Numbers 13 are two unrelated peoples who happen to have the same name. But this seems unlikely, given the great stature of both peoples…Nephilim are only named as such because they share characteristics in common with the older Nephilim: great size.”

But, again, we have no reliable indication that Nephilim were of subjectively, “great stature…great size” and we also know that, “great stature…great size” can refer to merely being taller than 5.0-5.3 ft.

B. J. Oropeza circles back to the, “evil report” again and emphasizes, “Perhaps a better explanation of this sort is that the spies reported false information in Numbers 13” and only then specifies that it was, “The ten spies” and refers to their assertions as, “a negative report” which was, “clearly exaggerated” (to say the least).

Thus, “If their report implies false information, they may have lied when they claimed that the Anakim were descendants of the Nephilim.”

Yet, B. J. Oropeza still relies on that report, in a way, since the sentence I just quoted is followed directly with, “Granted, they may have appeared to be similar to the Nephilim of old because of their great size” but, again, they only ways to get, “great size” (whatever that means) for Nephilim are:

1) Commit a word-concept fallacy by assuming that the words gigantes or giants are informing us about some unknown level of subjectively unusual height.

2) Actually believing the evil report.

3) Relying on folklore from millennia after the Torah.

Oropeza notes, “Ashley writes, ‘As the text stands [Num 13:31–33] it is clear that the majority report [of the spies] is condemned as false and faithless.’ (Timothy R. Ashley, The Book of Numbers, NICOT; 1993:243).”

Amen! And I collected various such statements by scholars in my book What Does the Bible Say About Giants and Nephilim? A Styled Giantology and Nephilology.

Oropeza ends by assuring us, “Frankly, if you are a believer in Christ, I really don’t think it matters much which position you prefer, since none of these should really have a bearing on your faith.”

Yet, fallacious Nephilology actually leads to fallacious bibliology and fallacious theology proper. That is because in order to get post-flood Nephilim, one has to imply that God failed and has to mishandle and manipulate texts toward a grand-narrative tall-tale.

See my various books here.

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