It’s my own fault, of course, for not reading the ten pages of legalese—not that I had much choice, since I didn’t actually get to keep a copy.
So what does this have to do with fringe history? The same lessons apply, to an extent. Fringe historians present a selective and often false version of history and then blame the audience for believing the pitch and not doing extensive outside research to evaluate their claims. Graham Hancock was perhaps the most honest about this when he wrote that he considered himself akin to a lawyer and fringe claims his client: “So it is certainly true, as many of my critics have pointed out, that I am selective with the evidence I present. Of course I’m selective! It isn’t my job to show my client in a bad light!”
And if you aren’t looking for the rest of the evidence, then you’re the sucker—as fringe historians laugh all the way the bank. On the plus side, at least fringe history books don’t charge interest.
So that was my moment of anger this morning.
But in terms of this week’s discussion on giants, I’d like to direct your attention to Mike Heiser’s blog, where Heiser has a fascinating addendum to the question of Og, the Biblical giant from Deuteronomy. According to the Biblical text (Deut. 3:11), Og was possessed of a singularly large bed, which gigantologists use to suggest that Og was nearly as tall as his sleeping place: “His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide.” For centuries, gigantologists have argued that Og must have been nearly thirteen feet tall—the Bible scholar Adam Clarke famously argued as much in his influential 1831 Biblical commentary. But as Heiser points out, the measurements of Og’s bed are identical to those of the ritual bed of Marduk and his consort Zarpanitu at Babylon, where the Babylonian king enacted an annual ritual marriage in the god’s stead. The measurements are given in the so-called Esagil Tablet, 229 BCE copy of earlier texts, in line 34: “The bed: 9 cubits the length, 4 cubits the breadth” (trans. A. R. George). Therefore, the Biblical writers appear to have been likening Og to the Babylonian god, or at least were implying that Og participated in a similar religious ritual. The point is that the size of the bed implies nothing about Og’s height any more than it does the size of the kings of Babylon who used Marduk’s bed.
I’ll leave you to read the rest of the analysis on Heiser’s Paleobabble.
Instead, I thought I’d finish with a discussion on giants from Peter the Venerable, a medieval Cluniac monk best known as the first serious scholar of Islamic texts in the West. Peter didn’t like Islam, but he also found the Jews to be obdurate in their refusal to become Christian, and he dealt with the issue of giants in trying to explain why the Jews’ views on giants were ridiculous, particularly the claim in the Targum Jonathan that Og was, by Peter’s calculation, 690 cubits high! Here’s the Targum Jonathan text commenting on Numbers 21:33-35:
Og having observed that the camp of the Israelites extended six miles, he went and tore up a mountain six miles in its base, and put it on his head, and carried it towards the camp, that he might throw it on the Israelites and destroy them; but the word of the Lord prepared a worm, which bored a hole in the mountain over his head, so that it fell down upon his shoulders: at the same time his teeth growing out in all directions, stuck into the mountain, so that he could not cast it off his head. Moses, (who was himself ten cubits high), seeing Og thus entangled, took an axe ten cubits long, and having leaped ten cubits in height, struck Og on the ankle bone, so that he fell and was slain. (trans. Adam Clarke)
I propose only one thing against your insanity, which ought not to be the subject of debate any longer but which ought instead to be laughed at, since it is so clear that it does not lie hidden from blind men. […] Since [Moses] said that the bed of this giant was nine cubits long and four cubits wide, certainly he showed that he had to have been somewhat less than the bed in terms of height and width. […] Was he, then, longer and wider than his own bed? I believe that here the Jewish argument is put to rest. (Against the Inveterate Obduracy of the Jews 5, trans. Irven M. Resnick)