On March 9, “Mouth of the South” Micah Hanks had his father, Alexander, an Episcopal priest, on The Graelian Report to discuss the Nephilim and comparative mythology. He introduced his father by explaining that the two of them were like the “roughneck” young Indiana Jones and his “scholar” father, Henry Jones, Sr. This might be true if either of them had made a discovery worthy of note. On the other hand, he might have meant that his public persona is a fictional creation, like a movie character play acting an impossible fantasy.
It surprises me, a bit, to realize that Micah Hanks seems to have very little knowledge of the subjects he claims to investigate. In discussing the Nephilim and the Great Flood he seems uncertain about the facts, and only partly familiar with a subject that, following his father, he seems to treat as a sideshow, important mostly because his audience is interested in it.
Hanks père denies any sort of fringe history importance for the Nephilim and presents the standard Christian interpretation of Genesis 6:4 along with the relatively mainstream claim that the passage represents a fragment of polytheistic religion rewritten for a monotheistic faith. But he chooses not to acknowledge the heavy influence of 1 Enoch, 2 Enoch, Jubilees, and other apocryphal texts on fringe history’s view of the Watchers and their offspring. Arguably, these texts are much more important for the development of the Watcher myth as it feeds into ancient astronaut theories, modern “Nephilim research,” ufology, and other fringe claims. The elder Hanks describes such books later in the interview but considers them unimportant for being non-canonical. Apparently he’s never watched Ancient Aliens.
Hanks père also follows the view that the Sea Peoples were Greek, that they brought to Canaan Greek mythology (in some form close to as we know it today), and thus influenced Hebraic mythology both with their stories and with their “giant” presence, serving as models for the Nephilim. This view has found support from Dmitri Panchenko, Robert H. Pfeiffer, C.B. MacLaurin, Othniel Margalit and others, so it is not without merit. Bruce Louden, writing in Homer’s Odyssey and the Near East (2011), also endorses this view, connecting the Nephilim to Greek mythology brought by Mycenaean refugees among the Sea Peoples. (He also feels that the Hebrew Bible was shaped by a reading of the Odyssey.)
Panchenko, though, takes the claim too far: In 2011 he caught the attention of gigantologists when argued that the Sea Peoples were Scandinavians and that therefore the Nephilim are a Hebraic interpretation of Norse mythology’s giants! His evidence is etymological, arguing for a connection between the Nephilim and Indo-European words related to clouds and heaven, such as nepheli (Greek: cloud) and Niflheim (Old Icelandic: Kingdom of Darkness). He also connects the Anakim, another race of Bible giants, to wanax, the Mycenaean term for a supreme commander. He assumes independence of Snorri Sturluson’s medieval Edda and the Book of Genesis, even though Christian material influenced the written forms of the Icelandic material as we received it. The Prose Edda, for example, begins: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth and all those things which are in them; and last of all, two of human kind, Adam and Eve, from whom the races are descended.”
There may be an element of truth in some of these claims, though almost certainly not a Scandinavian one. Jan Bremmer has compared the Sons of God/Watchers myth to that of the Greek Titans, but on the other hand non-Indo-European sources have similar tales: Gilgamesh was the product of one such union, and the Phoenician writer Sanchuniathon recorded that the gods and giants mated with human women and begat children by them.
The elder Hanks also says that he believes in Bigfoot by the preponderance of the evidence and feels that it is a Gigantopithecus that has evolved, not a Nephilim.
In another segment Father Hanks and Micah Hanks discuss the Great Flood, and Micah Hanks expresses his upset that “skeptics” are “debunking” for “the sake of debunking.” As opposed to what, precisely? Letting lies stand? This is particularly funny considering the two Hanks men spent significant time debunking the ancient astronaut and fringe history view of the Nephilim, meaning that they actually agree with skeptics and debunkers more than their fringe history brethren! The elder Hanks claims that the flooding of the Black Sea or the Caspian Sea accounts for Noah’s Flood and the Babylonian flood myths composed thousands of years later, a claim made in the 1990s by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, but not widely supported. The trouble is that no one can prove that these catastrophic floods occurred, much less that the story of such a flood transmitted down the millennia from a foundation in fact (as opposed to, say, a pure myth reflecting a return to the primeval waters of creation). Recent studies found either no evidence of a catastrophic Black Sea flood or extremely limited evidence of a much smaller flood event.
Hanks père, whose view of myth is (by his own admission) derived from Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, also considers nearly all of the flood myths as independent and chooses not to see borrowings from one culture or another, no matter how obvious it is. The Near East Flood Myth is very much one ancient story that forms the background that individual traditions—Sumerian, Babylonian, Hebrew, Greek, etc.—draw from. Even James Frazer, the great but flawed interpreter of myth, recognized that many of the New World flood myths that so intrigue the two Hanks men were heavily influenced by Christian missionaries, who sought to cast flood stories in Biblical terms for their own purposes. Buy his book to read more about that angle.
How it is that 130+ years later we are still circling the same argument?