Orthodox Priest Lawrence Farley writing “Of Giants and Grasshoppers”

Undergoing review is Fr. Lawrence Farley’s article, “Of Giants and Grasshoppers,” Ancient Faith Ministries, June 24, 2021.

“Ancient Faith Ministries exists to carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ…leading to a living experience of God through His Holy Orthodox Church. Ancient Faith Ministries is a department of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America with a pan-Orthodox outreach.”

I posted a comment at that article’s page but it seems that the admin did not want to approve it so, here goes.

One issue is that Farley jumps from using specific Hebrew terms such as “Anak” and “Nephilim” to the vague, generic, subjective, multi-usage, and undefined English word “giants” which makes his article hard to follow.

The opening statement refer to that “the spies…they…The spies” but this fails to distinguish between the two very different reports within the narrative of Numbers 13 and also fails to distinguish between the very different groups of spies in the narrative.

For example, he wrote this in quotes, “The people who live in the land are strong and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”

Yet, that is not an actual quotation but a compounding of two very different statements: one from the original report (that is accepted as is) and the other from the opening objections of the ten spies (sans Caleb and Joshua).

And it was the ten who “were quite rattled: ‘There we also saw the Nephilim and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight!’” as they stated it within their “evil report.”

Also, it is not the case that “The first question is: how big were the giants?” but rather, the first question is: to what, to whom, is Farley referring by “giants”?—especially since within the first couple of paragraphs he uses that term in three ways: referring to Nephilim, referring to unusual height, and referring to Anakim and/or Rephaim (since Goliath was a Repha of the Anakim subgroup).

It is not the case that the ten “described them” the Anakim, “as ‘Nephilim.’” Rather, the falsely asserted that the two are related. Also, the Septuagint for v. 33 does not contain a reference to Anakim at all.

Also, that “The word ‘Nephilim’ is here used to denote giants” is (mis) reading the word “giants” strictly according to its modern usage and is faulty since there are only two verses that reference Nephilim: Gen 6:4 which does not provide a physical description and Num 13:33 which is an “evil report” by men whom God rebuked, so it is not to be believed.

It is also not the case that “giants…is how it was translated by the Septuagint” since it renders (did not even translate) “Nephilim” as “gigantes” which merely means “earth-born” and implies nothing about height at all. Yet, the Septuagint also renders “Rephaim” as “gigantes” but there is no relation there and that word also does not imply anything about height. It also renders “gibborim” as “gigantes” but that is merely means “might/mighty” and also implies nothing about height.

And, that “The text says that such giants were on the earth in the days prior to the Flood ‘and also afterward’” is not the case, that is from v. 4 but the flood is not even mentioned for the very first time until a full 13 vss. later, v. 17.

Now, it is correct that “nothing survived the Flood except Noah and his family” and some animals, so that “Whatever Nephilim existed prior to the Flood were wiped out in the deluge” which is why there were no, nor could there have been, post-flood Nephilim.

It was the ten spies’ report, the evil one, that was “was rife with fear-driven hyperbole” to say the least with regards to “(‘small as grasshoppers’ by comparison? Really?), we may still ask: what about those giants?”

Farley notes, “‘the sons of God’…refer to the angels” and notes “The children produced by this angelic-human marriages.”

He writes in terms of “the Nephilim, giants” which is circular, at best, since he is reading a version that renders “Nephilim” as “giants” and so saying “Nephilim, giants” is biblically to be read as “Nephilim, Nephilim.”

Yet, he writes, “The text does not say that the Nephilim were result of the angelic-human unions; that result is mentioned in the next sentence.” The verse reads, “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” with the “when” seeming to denote something to the likes of as a result of when.

Otherwise, the narrative actually breaks since the text would read:

“…the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives…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” with an un-elucidated reference to Nephilim coming between two references to sons of God and daughters of men but apparently irrelevant to them.

In other words, it would be like the author was telling us about the sons of God and daughters of men and then said: oh, by the way, these Nephilim guys were around at the time but never mind, I won’t tell you anything about them whatsoever so I’m not sure why I ever brought them up—anyhow, back to our narrative, I was telling you about the sons of God and daughters of men

Farley notes that “The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (p. 18) suggests that the Nephilim are to be identified with the apkallu, semi-divine beings who marry human women and produced mixed classes.” He notes, “If this is true, what we have here in Genesis is not history, but polemic. The author of Genesis takes the heroes of the pagan world and paints them as the villains” and notes that this would refer to “giants prowling the earth and of angels mixing with women is intended as a statement that the culture of the pagans of their day was as bad as the sin which provoked the Flood.”

Yet, this is incoherent for various reasons:

1) There is not just one Apkallu tale and so the various ones differ. Thus, we cannot simply say Nephilim = Apkallu. For details, see chapter “On the Apkallu As Per Amar Anus” on my book What Does the Bible Say About Giants and Nephilim? A Styled Giantology and Nephilology.

2) Apkallu mythology dates to circa 165 BC and so post-dates Genesis by millennia.

3) Thus, if “Genesis is not history, but polemic” then Genesis was written and then millennia later someone inserts the polemic into it—which is a bit of an odd view of inspiration and we have no early manuscripts without the polemic and latter ones with it. In fact, the Septuagint contains Genesis 6 in its standard format that dates to centuries before the Apkallu mythology.

Farley notes:

“…eventually the Fathers began asking what to us is the obvious question, ‘How can a bodiless power like an angel have sex with a woman so that she conceives?’—especially since it was understood that angels do not marry (i.e. are not sexual beings; see Matthew 22:30).

As St. John of Damascus wrote, ‘They [the angels] are above us for they are incorporeal, and are free of all bodily passion’ (Exact Exposition, Book 2, chapter 3).”

Again, this is asking the wrong question. The right question is: what makes you think that Angles are bodiless/incorporeal? Especially since every single time they are described, they are described as looking just like human males without any indication that they are not ontologically so.

As for Matthew 22:30, it does not say “angels do not marry…are not sexual beings…are free of all bodily passion” but reads—note Jesus’ own emphatic qualifying terms—“in the resurrection they [resurrected humans] neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” which is why those who did are considered sinners, having “left their first estate” as Jude put it: they were not “of God” nor “in heaven.”

Farley notes:

“By this time, the Church’s theological sophistication had grown, so that the idea of angels being sexually attracted to human women, settling down with them in marriage, and having babies made no sense…thoughtful commentators like St. Augustine cast about for other explanations.

One was that the phrase ‘sons of God’ meant not the angels, but the godly line of Seth. This eventually became the standard interpretation of the Church, given the fact that Genesis cannot be discarded by the Church and that angels cannot impregnate women.”

Well, the original, traditional, and majority view among the earliest Jew and Christians alike, for centuries, was the Angel view—as I chronicle in 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.

If anything, Augustine (354- 430 AD) sought a different interpretation due to seeking to divulge himself of any vestige of his former Gnostic beliefs.

Getting back to the initial consideration, Farley notes, “The spies found clans of immensely tall and fierce Canaanites…Those giants…tall and scary…the giants” but those are all tall tales and nothing more: when one uses vague words, leaves their definition to the modern imagination, and takes metaphors literally then they have the makings of neo-theo-sci-fi.

For more details, see my relevant books.

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