Micah Hanks and His Father Discuss the Nephilim and the Flood, Blast "Debunkers" They Actually Agree With
It occurs to me that yesterday I neglected to offer a recap of Expedition Unknown. That would be because the episode, which was billed as “new,” was a cut down reedit of the two hour pilot, condensed to fit into a one-hour slot. I didn’t bother watching it a second time.
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.
Hanks says that he’s heard it said that understanding the Nephilim are the key to understanding fringe history—from Bigfoot to UFOs—though he isn’t sure what exactly this means. Hanks attributes the claim to his “best friend,” Scotty Roberts, who in his book Rise and Fall of the Nephilim baldly asserted that the Nephilim myth gave rise to everything from “the offspring of the Sons of God to the bright, shining Tuatha De Danaan (sic) of the ancient Celts, from Gilgamesh of Uruk to the Bigfoot of North American lore.” Hanks would perhaps have been better advised to look at my own work tracing not how the Nephilim are actually involved in these claims but rather how the myth of the Watchers has influenced various permutations of fringe history that then apply the Watchers myth to unrelated mythological and folklore beings. That’s not to say that various nuts haven’t tried linking the Nephilim to Bigfoot, but if you’re going to say that they are the key to understanding such ideas it’s probably a good idea to recognize that the Nephilim story has been applied to other fringe history claims, not that Bigfoot actually grows out of such claims.
If you’re interested, the Bigfoot-Nephilim claim derives from attempts to trace Bigfoot back to the red-haired cannibal giants of alleged Native American lore. (That claim is itself problematic, derived from conflated events and misinterpretations.) Because the cannibal giants resemble the cannibal giants of 1 Enoch 7:4-5 (where they “devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood”), it therefore follows by implication that Bigfoot is a Nephilim, even though Bigfoot is not himself a red-haired cannibal giant.
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.
The elder Hanks provides an analysis of Flood myths that is less sophisticated than that of William Denton, the geologist and political radical (he was once fired from a teaching position for advocating evolution), who offered a smarter version of the same claim in 1882: “In all times floods have occurred; some by heavy and long-continued rains, others by the bursting of lake-barriers or the irruption of the sea; and wherever traditions of these have been met with, men with the Bible story in their minds have at once attributed their origin to the Noachian deluge.” In other words, the myth governs how people come to interpret reality as evidence of the myth. For Hanks, reality created the myths. The elder Hanks, though, is limited because of his Christian faith, which requires him to endorse the Noachian deluge as the key element of the Bible, however he rationalizes it. In 1882, Denton was able to dismiss even this, replying to the question of whether Jesus and the Apostles thought the Flood happened: “Granted; but does that transform a fable into a fact?”
How it is that 130+ years later we are still circling the same argument?
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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