Wednesday, September 17, 2008
"Nephilim" - article for TAPSparamag's June 2008 issue
A shorter, edited-for-space article appeared in TAPSparaMagazine. Below is the full, unedited article.....
Somewhere in our darker past, before the days of modern psychological discipline and scientific advance, we, the human race, believed that our life’s fortunes, illnesses, woes and serendipitous happenstances were firmly rooted in the spiritual and the supernatural. As we evolved our technology and sciences, we learned more and more about the mind and body, universal expansion and entropy, geological tectonics, and the movement of our solar system around a somewhat smallish star that burned in the Milky Way galaxy. Along the way, we dispensed with our reliance on the ethereal, casting aside our need for gods, devils and every cast of angel and demon in between. We corporately tuned-out our hearts, and turned our minds to the methodological pragmatic, allowing Science and skeptical thought to successfully supplant faith in that great “Something-Bigger-Than-Ourselves.” Quantifiable fact became the inevitable surrogate for the misty stuff of myth and legend. And while we may not have totally thrown out the baby with the bath water, we have successfully become a culture that discounts anything that cannot be measured by the Scientific Method, casting dispersions on experiential faith and even the slightest adherence to anything that smacks of an older spiritual belief system.
The paramount endeavor that occupies most of the recorded history of the Human Race – after the history of War, that is (which seems to be synonymous with the history of mankind) - is the great quest for discovery; the seeking-out of the whos, whats, wheres, whys and hows of our existence. And yet, while attempting, on that quest, to adhere to strict, quantifiable sources, we have let go the Spiritual; the innocuous, insubstantial, airborne flotsam that, when you actually look for it, seems to permeate every facet of being, down to the very spark of life, itself.
So, what if the outmoded, outgrown, discarded superstitions - the things of the unseen, unwanted realms - really do have their basis in some sort of truth? What if the superstitious banalities we brushed aside in the broad swath of our skeptical hand, were truly the evidentiary stuff of things not seen; the substance of a very real universe that dwelt and operated just below the surface of the visible, tangible world around us? What if there truly exists a viable, legitimate source code that, at times, finds its way through the barrier that divides the diaphanous from the substantive? What if Science ain’t the end-all and be-all of this universe, and we really are surrounded by forces of good, evil, light and dark? What if there really are living, vibrant beings who dwell and function beyond the veil of the dimension of the here and now?
What if the old myths and legends, really do have a meaty weight of truth and fact? What if Jehovah, Satan, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Shemjaza, Azazel, and a seemingly endless list of other angelic beings are not just the stuffs of ancient hallucinogenically-induced visions, but the very real names of overtly real creatures who live and interact with mankind since millennia past?
The quandary we face is that every one of these questions have answers that can only be substantiated by faith, as there is very little quantifiable proof that angels and demons exist beyond religious scripture and personal experience. We know that Good and Evil co-exist in this universe due to the fact that most of us have experienced these opposing forces on a firsthand basis, in one form or another. However, quantifying their existence can only be substantiated in the end result and affect, rather than the causal source.
During my seminary days, back in the early 1980s, one of my professors, Dr. Charles Aling – now the chair of History at Northwestern College in Roseville, MN – told me for the very first time, “All myth and legend has at it’s historical headwaters, at least a kernel of truth based in cold, hard fact.” It was this, then, original thought that became the philosophical teat on which my spiritual philosophies suckled. Together, they became the motivating factors in my personal studies of biblical and historical mysteries.
Noah’s Flood was always a great Sunday School story told with felt storyboard dioramas, where I learned that God destroyed the entire antediluvian world by universal flood that covered even the highest mountain peaks, and all because of the sinful nature and habits of his creation: man. As I grew older, it became more and more difficult to wrap my brain around the account found in the first book of the Pentateuch, especially in light of the fact that other ancient African, Mesopotamian and far eastern cultures had their own Noah-free versions of what seemed to be the very same ancient flood story. What is clear in most cultures’ flood accounts is that a massive, judgmental deluge ravaged the face of the known world as a result of “fallen angels” who impregnated human women, producing offspring. This started me looking at the Old Testament Genesis account through very different eyes, and wondering why these features had been omitted from my Sunday school education. The notion that the Genesis flood was Jehovah’s wrath excised on the earth as a direct result of the wickedness of mankind is a misinterpretation at worst, and a gross misunderstanding of the events, at best. The Genesis text clearly indicates that the watery judgment was directly linked to the intermingling between “beings who descended from the heavens” with human women, and the resultant hybrid race that was birthed by that intercourse. The notion that angels were sexless is pure political invention on the part of early church fathers.
Now, here is where the difficulty begins: on one hand we are discussing a story found in a spiritual text whose interpretation is faith based, and on the other, we are examining the details from the faith-based perspective that there existed “extraterrestrial” (not from this earth) beings who were the focal point of the issue. It’s rather like using psychic sensitives as quantifiable evidence for a haunting – they may be right on the mark, but you’ll never be able to apply the scientific method to such unquantifiable research practice. So, for the sake of this article, let’s just simplify the process and look at the account as written, parsing it down to gain a better understanding of what’s really contained in the text. And for the sake of space, we will call this little exercise, “Who Launched Noah’s Ark?’” Let’s start by looking at the text itself:
1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that these daughters were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
3 Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years."
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of the human beings and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
(Today’s New International Version)
These four verses from Genesis chapter six appear in the preamble to the account of Noah’s flood. Noah’s name appears for the first time in the text in verse eight where it states that he “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” These four verses comprise a very interesting passage in that it differs in writing style from the rest of the book of Genesis, having earmarks of having been extracted, edited and perhaps even plagiarized - at least in part - from other extant contemporary source material. If you’ve ever written a term paper for school, it’s like paraphrasing material from external sources without quoting the source. After extensive study of this passage, Dr. David Penchansky, chair of Hebrew studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN stated,
“This passage has been edited, either by the writer of Genesis, or by later scribes. It most certainly does not match the writing style of the rest of the book, and the language in which it is written is ‘choppy,’ almost as if it is reproduced in the text as snippets from other source material. And the account was, obviously, far too well-known at the time to be omitted completely.”
Who are the Sons of God?
In this passage we are told that the “Sons of God” looked upon human women (other translations refer to these women as: “the daughters of men/man; men’s daughters; the beautiful women of the human race; and even, ‘these girls’”) and “saw that they were beautiful.” In some translations, the Sons of God “lusted after them,” and then “married any of them they chose,” or in some translations “they took the ones they liked.” The title, “Sons of God,” has been viewed several ways, and various translations refer to them as, “God’s Sons, heavenly beings, and Sons from the Heavens.” It is clear to most biblical scholars that the title, “Sons of God,” refers to angelic beings, and this is supported by other passages throughout the old and new testaments, as well as the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and various other historical texts. It is interesting that even Jesus of Nazareth, himself, was called “The Son of God.” Whoever they were, the text makes it clear that they were bequeathed by the God who was above them; sons by birth, or sons by creative act, their point of origin is clear in all accounts – they came from the heavens and had some claim to being called sons of God. The following passage from the Book of Enoch introduces them within the framework of the Jewish/Christian tradition – despite their appearance in a book that was banned from the canonical scriptures by The Church - and offers up a startlingly similar account to the Genesis 6:1-4 passage:
1 Enoch 7: 1-11
1 It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. 2 And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, ‘Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.’ 3 Then their leader Shamyaza said to them; ‘I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise; 4 And that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime.’
5 But they answered him and said; ‘We all swear; 6 And bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.’ 7 Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis (during the days of Jared), which is the top of mount Armon (Mt. Hermon in present day Israel).
8 That mountain therefore was called Armon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations.
9 These are the names of their chiefs: Shamyaza, who was their leader, Urakabarameel, Akibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Saraknyal, Asael, Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertael, Turel, Yomyael, Arazyal. These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them.
10 Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.
11 And the women conceiving brought forth giants.
According to Enoch, the Sons of God were created, bequeathed angelic beings who descended (fell down) to the earthly realm, and atop Mt. Hermon, made a pact to produce offspring with human women. To ascribe malevolence to these angels would not be wholly accurate, but Enoch’s book does intimate that should they carry out their plan, they were in fear of being held responsible for enacting a “sinful” deed in the eyes of God. Enoch goes on to tell of the attributes they brought down to the human race with them: enchantments, the making of weaponry, meteorology, astrology, astronomy, interpretations of moon phases, herbology and the signs of the sun, stars and moon. With these angelic-taught skills, mankind delved to the lowest common denominator by developing the art of warfare, and pursued wickedness to the point of stirring up Jehovah’s wrath. And the Sons of God were, indeed, held to blame, Shemjaza their leader somehow overlooked, and Azazel being held as the main culprit for introducing weapons and warfare to mankind.
And then there was their “giant” offspring.
According to scripture, the offspring of the Sons of God and human women were the Nephilim, but I do not believe the term is solely attributable to the offspring only. The Sons of God who descended from the heavens, were known as the Nephilim once they took up residence in the earthly realm. So they and their offspring together became known as the Nephilim. It’s the very same scenario you have when an Irish immigrant moves his existence to America. He is Irish, but his emigrating act has given him the new title of American, and he and his offspring are now known by both titles: Irish and American, possessing a dual identity. But the children born to him in America bear the stronger title.
The writers of the 1611 King James Bible indirectly translated the word Nephilim as “giants,” yet the preferred scholarly translation is “fallen ones.” “Giant” can be better understood when you ascribe the values of height, distance from the ground to the top, descending from the heights, falling from the heavens, etc. While there are many scholarly views on the identity of the Nephilim, it would take an entire book to explore the different Hebrew and Aramaic root words that comprise the term. Then, once you’ve properly identified and translated the word, you have to take into consideration it’s interpretation based on the surrounding textual context, as well as the audience for whom the text is being written.
The root Hebrew word for Nephilim is the verb nephal, meaning: 1) to fall (to the ground); 2) to fall (in battle); 3) to be cast down; 4) to desert a location; 5) to fail. The “im” denotes plurality, giving us the “fallen down ones,” or the “ones who descended.”
The Nephalim can best be defined as a race of beings who descended – or “fell” – to the earth, abandoning their existence and habitation in the heavenly realms. They were angelic in origin, birthed by God, and they brought to the human inhabitants of the earth special skills, as well as an unearthly libido. Their offspring bore the same title of Nephilim, and the propagation of their mixed race on the earth led to the judgment of God in the form of a flood as described in Genesis and other ancient accounts. Also mentioned in the Book of Enoch is the fact that these beings descended to the earth during “the days of Jared,” the father of Enoch. His name means, literally, “Descent,” and he was named thus because the descent of the Sons of God to the earth, took place during his lifetime.
It is interesting at this point, to note that both Jared and Enoch are also mentioned in the bible. Genesis 5:18-24 says:
18 When Jared was 162 years old, his son Enoch was born. 19 After the birth of Enoch, Jared lived another 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters. 20 He died at the age of 962.
21 When Enoch was 65 years old, his son Methuselah was born. 22 After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived another 300 years in close fellowship with God, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 Enoch lived 365 years in all. 24 He enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life. Then suddenly, he disappeared because God took him.
(New Living Translation)
In the older archaic English of the 1611 King James Version of the bible, that last verse is worded, “And Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him.”
Cultural traditions from all around the world have myths and legends telling of angelic beings who descended to the earth and interacted with human beings, ushering in some sort of cataclysmic, world-wide destruction of humanity that left scant, few survivors. When analysis of the languages used in the various accounts is compared, blatantly similar facts emerge, revealing a commonality between the varied cultural tales, substantiating a corporate mythos: flesh and blood beings who were revered as gods, interacted with humanity in the most intimate of ways. Can these things be quantified by the Scientific Method? Does this establish any sort of verifiable proof of a crossover between inter-dimensional races? I believe yes. While the data is not repeatable for experimentation, the historical annals speak loudly and clearly. When there exists such localized myths in geographical regions, repeated by other localized myths in far away geographical regions, over and over again, there is a certain scientific methodology at play. There is a message revealed.
There is so much more meat on the bones that I have presented above, that it would take weeks and months of reading to fully acquaint one’s self with all the material. What I have presented here is, hopefully, a tip-of-the-iceberg look at a very large, expansive topic. And it is my belief that that it is a subject of great importance in understanding our past, both historically and spiritually. There was a time where history leapt the established boundaries and intermingled with the spiritual, and if we look hard enough, and dig deep enough, we can find the wonderfully exciting buried treasure of discovery.
There is an incredibly revealing verse found in the new testament book of Hebrews. It is an engagingly mystical, yet somehow frighteningly admonishing passage in light of all we have explored above…
Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.
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Further reading on this topic:
1) “Twilight of the Gods: Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible” by David Penchansky
2) “Gateway of the Gods” by Craig Hines
3) “The Lost Book of Enoch” by Joseph B. Lumpkin and Joyce A. Dujardin