This morning Graham Hancock announced that he is working on a “lengthy article” taking down the ancient astronaut theory, particularly that of Zecharia Sitchin. It would seem that Hancock is getting a bit upset that Ancient Aliens is driving a fringe history conversation he thinks he should be dominating with his resurrected Atlantis hypothesis. I will of course cover his “lengthy article” when it is released, but for now I can’t help but point to this hilarious line from his announcement explaining why he feels ancient astronaut theorists are dishonest: “[I]n order to give the impression that the sites and texts do support their hypothesis, it is necessary for ancient astronaut theorists again and again to take the ancient texts out of context, or to misquote them deliberately, rather than to present them to readers in an honest and transparent way.” Seriously? Hancock is worried about other people taking texts out of context or misquoting them? This is the same man who relies on encyclopedias and summaries for his knowledge of ancient myths and who happily borrows quotations from secondary sources without bothering to check their original context—or even if they’ve been quoted correctly.
His announcement today is in advance of his appearance at the Contact in the Desert ancient astronaut symposium to defend the lost civilization against aliens. He plans to borrow Michael Heiser’s analysis of Sitchin’s errors, and I am particularly amused that he believes that the Nephilim could not be space aliens because their technology made no “progress” over the thousands of years of alleged alien rule. Frankly, I’d have thought that any alien race of such technological sophistication would have technology so amazing that human perspectives would be unable to distinguish changes, but that’s just me. Besides, his human Nephilim-antediluvians-Atlanteans (specifically white-skinned Nephilim) seemed to have made no technological progress either. They didn’t seem to advance before the comet-induced flood, and degenerated after.
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.
For those of you keeping track, Pezron was a Cistercian, so we know from #WolterPulitzer that he simply had to be in on the Templar-Nephilim conspiracy! More correctly, Pezron was among the first to identify the Celts with the Nephilim based on a purposeful misreading of ancient sources that described the Celts as tall (e.g. Diodorus 5.28.1 and 5.32.2; Caesar, Gallic Wars 2.30.4; etc.) as meaning they were gigantic. Such claims continue down to the present, most recently when gigantologist Steve Quayle repeated the claim. Building on such ideas, William Michael Mott went still further and made the Nephilim into fully fledged Nordic supermen in his 2011 book Caverns, Cauldrons, and Concealed Creatures: “…the apocryphal hybrid offspring of Nephilim and humans were described as having extremely ‘Nordic’ or Aryan appearance, as described in The Book of Lamech, and The Slavonic Book of Enoch…” Mott’s book received endorsements from both Micah Hanks and Brad Steiger, who both wrote forwards for it. It probably goes without saying that the Book of Lamech was lost two thousand years ago, and it contents are unknown. Mott meant the Genesis Apocryphon, once mistaken for Lamech back in the 1940s and 1950s. Either way, no Nordics show up in either the Genesis Apocryphon or 2 Enoch. This mistake came from Millar Burrows’ early attempt to translate the Genesis Apocryphon, which filled in gaps with words not actually attested in the surviving fragments, including the ascription of “white” skin to the sons of the Watchers in describing Lamech’s fear that Noah is one of them. This is based on the parallel passages in 1 Enoch 106, where Noah, whom Lamech fears is the son of a Watcher by adultery, is born with a body “white as snow”: “the colour of his body is whiter than snow and redder than the bloom of a rose, and the hair of his head is whiter than white wool, and his eyes are like the rays of the sun.” Apparently “Nordic” simply means “white” to fringe figures. Slavonic Enoch makes no mention of this but does say angels have white skin (2 Enoch 37). Such whiteness referred to purity, but at any rate Caucasians do not have actual snow white skin as much as a shade of pale peachy pink.
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.
There is a very small bit of support for this wild idea. Sanchuniathon reported the Phoenician legend that the gigantic sons of the gods were associated with mountains: “These begat sons of vast bulk and height, whose names were conferred upon the mountains which they occupied.”
But the Nephilim were volcanoes!
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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