Yesterday I presented William A. Hinson’s plagiarism of a Fate magazine article on the giants, and in it, Hinson makes an unusual claim that he copies word for word from Fate, which adds this after describing a “giant” with a double row of teeth allegedly found in California: “It has a singular tie-in with the statement in the old Babylonian Talmud, called the Berakthoth, that the giants before the Great Deluge had double rows of teeth.”
Obviously, if an ancient text said that, I want to know about it. Oh, boy, this is another of those kind of stories. In the great telephone game that is fringe history, something weird happened. Somehow, a rather general statement grew to more closely conform to a developing modern myth, largely through repetition without checking the original text. Today, the claim that the Talmud confirms the double dentition of Bible giants can be found across the Nephilim research community and various websites related to giants.
So my first step was to trace back the Fate magazine piece, which I didn’t know firsthand yesterday but rather through an excerpt from a 1999 omnibus collection of Fate published on a gigantology website. As it turns out, the author of the piece was none other than Harold T. Wilkins, who published the article “Giants in the Earth” in January 1952 and used the same material in Secret Cities of Old South America later that same year. I assume the book was written (or at least researched) first and that he used its material for the article, though I do not have enough information to prove it. Ultimately, it does not really matter which came first. Both describes the same alleged giant finds in the same order, and the book includes the following footnote, which is much more detailed than the article’s brief claim:
A truly amazing corroboration of the dentition of these antediluvian giants of ancient America is found in the Hulin section of the Berakthoth, or Babylonian Talmud, where it is said the giants, before the Great Deluge, had numerous rows of teeth! The old compilers of the Hulin can hardly be said to have heard of this California find! The Hulin tells us that these giants had feet 18 ells long, and ate one thousand oxen, horses, and camels each day.
The similarity between Wilkins’s footnote and the Fate piece shows that Wilkins was recycling text, but it is interesting to see in Fate he has substituted the familiar “double rows” of teeth for the book’s “numerous” rows of teeth. In his book, he won’t specify the number of rows, though he uses the Talmudic claim to support a reference to a double row of teeth supposedly found in a gigantic California skull. This, I imagine, is the proximate reason that the Fate version renders “numerous” teeth for a double row—presumably, Wilkins grew more confident in his conclusions as he reworked his research for a popular magazine. In Fate he also has eliminated the Hulin, or more properly Chullin (or an H with a diacritical mark I can’t make with this blog software), apparently in simplifying the book for popular readership. Of course, it might also have gone the other way, with him trying to be more scholarly in reworking the article for the book.
But where did Wilkins get his information? Well, we know it isn’t from a direct source since he mistakenly believes that the Hulin is a subset of the Berakhot. Both the Chullin and the Berakhot are tractates of the Babylonian Talmud, but the former is in the Seder Kodashim, while the latter is in the Seder Zeraim. So how did he confuse them?
The answer comes from the second part of Wilkins’s paragraph, where he wrongly attributes claims about the giants’ size and appetite to the Chullin when it does not appear in that tractate. Instead, it appears in close proximity to a discussion of Chullin’s references to the giants’ teeth in the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906, whose article on “Giants” I quote here:
Some of these giants had feet 18 ells in length (Deut. R. i.), and the same length is given for the thigh-bone (Buber, “Tanhuma,” Debarim, addition 7). Numerous rows of teeth are also ascribed to them (Hul. 60a). They were very voracious, eating as many as a thousand oxen, horses, and camels each day (Midrash Abkir).
Notice the suspiciously similar wording: numerous rows of teeth. Wilkins couldn’t be more specific because he got his information from the encyclopedia and failed to notice that the other information in the same lines came from different sources: a commentary on Deuteronomy and the Midrash Abkir—which itself is a weird discussion of the fallen angels, similar to that of Jubilees, but which also posits that Azazel is still on earth today, in the form of (essentially) a male model, to seduce women into sexual sin. Somehow, though, when summarizing the material for Fate, he conflated his premises and conclusions and rendered the phrase as double rows.
How he confused the Chullin for a section of the Berakhot, I can’t imagine. The Berakhot (54b) contains passages about Og, the last of the giant Rephaim, including references to his enormous teeth, which like tusks jutted from his mouth. It’s obvious that he conflated the information through not actually knowing the primary sources, but how he came to the conclusion that one was part of the other—that might be a secret left to history.
But it was through that mistake that modern copyists and plagiarists mistakenly assert that the Berakhot speaks of the “18 ells” of giant feet and the “numerous rows” of their teeth.
If you’ve read this far, I assume you want to know what the Chullin actually says about the giants’ teeth. Oh, the fun! It turns out that in the Jewish Encyclopedia the scholar M. Seligsohn, who wrote the article on giants, has the wrong citation. He gives the references as Chullin 60a, but it is actually 60b that contains the discussion of … well, not exactly giant teeth. It’s a bit more complicated.
Seligsohn performed a bit of an inference in his brief sentence, which he explained in greater detail earlier in the article. It’s painfully complex, so I’m going to simplify as much as possible: According to Jewish lore, the first inhabitants of Palestine were giants, specifically the Anakim and the Rephaim. Therefore, extra-biblical sources claimed that the other early inhabitants of Palestine were related to these two giant tribes and must therefore have been giants themselves. Consequently, the Avvim of Deuteronomy 2:23 were assigned a relationship to the Rephaim. According to the Genesis Raba 26:7, the Avvim were one of seven groups of “mighty men of old,” the giants of Genesis 6:4, and the Avvim brought the world to ruin.
All of this background is necessary to understand why anyone would connect Chullin 60b to giants when it is actually talking about the Avvim. Here is what the text actually says, speaking of the Avvim: “R. Joseph said: Every one of them had sixteen rows of teeth” (Epstein’s English trans. of the Talmud).
And there you have it, folks! The giants didn’t have double rows of teeth; they had sixteen rows of teeth! So the next time you see a gigantologist explaining why the Talmud supposedly confirms double rows of giant teeth, you’ll know that anyone who wants to use the Talmud to support claims for giants needs to contend with the fourteen rows of missing teeth in their supposed giant skeletons.
And this is why we use primary sources and don’t just copy what other people said.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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