So, given this, I thought I’d share a bit more about Nephilim that I learned this weekend. I’m sure you’re probably getting tired of all the weird things people have tried to do with Nephilim, but I hope you’ll indulge me in one of the weirded uses of the Nephilim myth. I found it amusing. Our story starts with the Aryans, mostly because somebody has to be racist in a fringe history claim. Anyway, by the end of the nineteenth century there was a strange move to make the antediluvian giants into lily white Aryans, despite the obvious problem with associating the Master Race with corrupt cannibals killed by an angry God. Ignatius Donnelly speaks for this school when he writes that “if the tradition of Genesis be true, the Aryans came from the drowned land, to wit, Atlantis.”
The origin of Donnelly’s belief is equally fantastical, and a little weird: He borrowed much of it from the Abbé Paul-Yves Pezron (1639-1706), who claimed that the Indo-European Celts were the Titans of old, the Nephilim and those who rebelled against the god-kings of Antiquity. As Pezron wrote (in eighteenth century translation):
…they affected the name of Titans; or the Children of Earth, and it was under this name, so much celebrated by the ancient poets and historians, that they performed such might things… There is some slight mention of them in the Scripture, that sometimes speaks of these people under the name of Titans, and other whiles of Giants, for they were of huge stature, and in their time Masters of the Earth, qui terrae dominati sunt.
The problem with this, of course, is that the claim isn’t terribly flattering to white folk who wanted to claim the mantle of Aryan supremacy for themselves. Who would want to be associated with the Nephilim and the sinful daughters of Cain? This question didn’t bother biblical scholars of the time, who happily argued that there was a large Aryan presence in the Middle East in Biblical times. The theory at the time was that the Amorites, the people ruled by Og the Giant, were Aryans and once dominated the Semitic peoples of the Levant, including the Israelites. (They weren’t Aryan—they were Semitic.) This theory of Aryan Amorites who reigned over Israel originated with Felix von Luschan and eventually ended up in the work of racist writer Houston Stewart Chamberlain (who argued for an Aryan David and Jesus) and Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi commissar for ideological education.
The whole idea of looking for the true race of the Nephilim seems silly if one were to insist on a literal reading of Genesis since they were born and died before Noah’s three sons gave rise to the modern races. Mostly, it seems that racists back then just wanted every awesome, cool, or powerful being to be white.
Nevertheless, from this stew of speculation there emerged one of the most ridiculous Nephilim rationalizations I have ever read. The Rev. A. Löwy read a paper before the Society of Biblical Archaeology in 1883 in which he reviewed the Aryan theory, declaring it not unreasonable, but adding that the Nephilim themselves were unlikely to be actual Aryans. A euhemerist at heart, he thought they were volcanoes, specifically the dormant Shihan volcano of Jordan:
Sihon and Og are said to have been of the Nephilim who are mentioned in Genesis vi. Nephilim means fallen down or prostrate men. Jewish folk-lore here identifies the Nephilim or fallen with the Rephaim of Bashan, and it tells us that Sihon and Og were survivors of the heaven-assailing Titans. They were Nephilim, that is, cast down upon the earth. In this legend is the following grain of truth. Sihon in Bashan being a fire-emitting and colossal mountain, it was by tradition metamorphosed into a human giant. And as the volcano became extinct, and its thunders gave way to deadly stillness, it might well be proclaimed by dreamy tradition that Sihon whilst assailing the sky was overthrown and humbled for ever.
But the Nephilim were volcanoes!