Skeptic Month. Today we’re looking at a remarkable event described in the book of Genesis that critics say gives credence to the idea that the Bible is on a par with other ancient books of mythology.
In Genesis 6 we’re told that the Nephilim were on the earth in the days of Noah. Nephilim is rendered in some translations (such as the revered KJV) as “giants”. We’re also told that the sons of God were attracted to the daughters of men and had children with them. These children became “. . . heroes of old, men of great renown”.
Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Sounds a lot like Greek mythology, doesn’t it? We learned in school that the Greek storytellers told of how the gods intermarried with humans and had children by them, and we call those children “heroes”.
Hercules was a hero – son of the god Zeus and the mortal Alcmene.
Now, Christian apologists like to quote the Jewish historian Josephus as an extra-Biblical source proving the existence of Jesus, because he mentions Jesus twice in his work Antiquities of the Jews. It bears mentioning that one of those references (called the Testimonium Flavianum) is highly suspect because it makes overtly Messianic proclamations that Josephus did not espouse.
But did you know that Josephus also mentions Hercules? Yep, three times in fact – here are the references: 1.15; 8.5.3; and 10.11.1. Now, to be fair, one of those (8.5.3) is a reference to the temples of Hercules, but the other two speak of Hercules as a historical figure.
You’ll hear many sermons quoting Josephus on Jesus, but you’ll never hear an evangelical preacher mention Josephus’s references to Hercules. Why? Because it makes it easy to argue that Jesus is on the same level as Hercules. If, as it is sometimes alleged, Hercules was a true historical figure around whom many mythologies were constructed, why couldn’t the same be said about Jesus?
And what about those giants? We’re told in Genesis 7:21 that all creatures other than Noah and his family were annihilated in the flood, but then these giants show back up in Numbers 13:33. Where did these Nephilim come from?