Friday, March 12, 2010

Skeptic Month: Giants, Josephus, and More Giants

Here at Pastor Kip we’re continuing on with 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?


Kristin said...

God dealt with the first 'wave' of Nephilim with the flood, but it is possible that they could have occurred again.

I have long wondered if this is the root of stories about werewolved, vampires, or even superheroes.

In any case, the Nephilim are a curiosity. It explains figures like Hercules, but also those like Goliath.

I don't think it is necessary to prove or disprove all other mythology in order to get collaboration about Jesus's life and existence. The fact that a historian in Jesus's time mentions him is enough for me to know he existed and that events around his life and death could be confirmed from an "unbiased" source. It gives credence to the Bible's account and that's all we need from it. If it says things about other figures in other cultures' histories, well, I'd be interested enough to watch a documentary, but not inclined to stake eternity on it.

Quintessential said...

Without going into them all, several things are presumed here. It is unnecessary for historians to be perfect to use them as a reference. There have been many things that Josephus has in fact helped us with. When we are talking about Josephus writing sixty years or so after Jesus, it is an important historical reference, like it or not.

Joe Narusiewicz said...

What we suppose to do? Pick up some book on Sponge or higher criticism and the historical Jesus and become some pathetic rainbow church based on existential liberation Marxists insanity?

OJB said...

Yeah, don't know whether you have seen my other comments on your blog yet but if you have I'm sure you know what I'm going to say: the Bible is primarily a work of fiction. Sure, it is set in some real places, describes some real events, and features some real people, but it's mostly just mythology.

Maybe someone called Jesus really existed - it's hard to tell - but if he did most of the stuff in the Bible has very little to do with his real life!