DESPITE NEAR-UNIVERSAL skepticism from mainstream science — and most Christians — Judd Burton, director of the Institute of Biblical Anthropology, believes that the giants of Genesis 6 are to be taken literally. In fact, he suggests in his new book Interview With the Giant: Ethnohistorical Notes on the Nephilim, that the nephilim may have planted the roots of mankind’s earliest known civilizations.
Burton, an historian and archaeologist by training, takes a scholarly look at a field of study that is admittedly thin on evidence — although one may suggest that it’s less the scarcity of evidence and more the interpretation of the evidence that has led most academics to dismiss research into literal giants as “fringe”.
It is also possible, as Burton suggests, that some finds have simply gone missing from museum collections. Human skeletons as large as 25 feet were reportedly discovered in Europe since the beginning of the 17th century, and dozens of unusually large remains measuring between seven and ten feet in height were discovered by farmers settling the Ohio River valley in the 19th century — some of which were sent back to Washington, D.C. and apparently lost by the Smithsonian.
But rather than speculate, Burton focuses on the evidence at hand and attempts to reconstruct their history, like a forensic profiler, from the clues they left behind. He develops a fascinating, if necessarily incomplete, portrait of a race of brutal, fearsome warriors who left their mark not only on the Ancient Near East, but the entire antediluvian world.
Because much of the textual evidence was handed down from Hebrew sources, such as the Old Testament and a few extrabiblical sources like the books of Enoch, Jasher, and Jubilees, most of what we know about the giants of old relates to the nephilim of the Ancient Near East. Given their history, this is no surprise; according to those sources, the nephilim were the product of an unholy cross-species mating between angels and human women.
Burton names the various tribes or clans mentioned in the Bible, such as the Rephaim, the Emim, the Gibborim, the Zamzummim, and the Awwim, and provides maps to place them. He tells us what we know of specific giants, such as Og, the king of Bashan, and Goliath, the mercenary of Gath. He goes further, connecting the nephilim to demonic spirits and suggesting that their predatory, cannabalistic habits might be the origin of the legends of vampires.
Drawing on his personal research at the archaeological dig at Banias in northern Israel, Burton draws fascinating links between Azazel, a leader of the fallen angels who descended from heaven at Mount Hermon to intermingle with humanity, and Pan, the lusty half-goat Greek god of shepherds and flocks.
The Bible tells us that the goat upon which the Hebrews laid the sins of the tribe before it was driven into the desert was called Azazel, an echo of the punishment visited upon the angel Azazel for leaving his first estate. Since Banias, later known as Caesarea Philippi, is the site of the Grotto of Pan and nearly at the foot of Mount Hermon, Jesus’ choice of the place to reveal Himself as the Messiah to his disciples (see the Confession of Peter) was, in Burton’s view, a sort of cosmic “in your face” to the angels who’d chosen to rebel against God.
Interview With the Giant is a quick and informative read on a fascinating and underappreciated topic, and Burton thoughtfully includes a chapter devoted to other sources that readers can investigate for further research. The book is available in paperback and as a very affordable e-book (PDF) at Lulu.com.