Gigantobibliophile Goodness: Ancient Tales of Giants from Qumran and Turfan (Mohr Siebeck, June 2016)

goff - ancient tales of giantsBig news for gigantobibliophiles! This volume has just been published:

Matthew Goff, Loren T. Stuckenbruck, and Enrico Morano, eds, Ancient Tales of Giants from Qumran and Turfan: Contexts, Traditions, and Influences (WUNT 360; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016)

While there has been much scholarly attention devoted to the Enochic Book of the Watchers , much less has been paid to the Book of Giants from Qumran. This volume is the proceedings of a conference that convened in Munich, Germany, in June 2014, which was devoted to the giants of Enochic tradition and in particular the Qumran Book of Giants . It engages the topic of the giants in relation to various ancient contexts, including the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and ancient Mesopotamia. The authors of this volume give particular attention to Manichaeism, especially the Manichaean Book of Giants , fragments of which were found in Turfan (western China). They contribute to our understanding of the range of stories Jews told in antiquity about the sons of the watchers who descended to earth and their vibrant Nachleben in Manichaeism.

After the Introduction from Matthew Goff, Brian Doak examines the motif of giganticism in the Hebrew Bible and in its reception. The next two essays compare Greek Titans with Jewish giants and examine early Jewish literature in Greek. Part Two contains five essays examining aspects of the ancient Jewish context for giants (including especially the Qumran Book of Giants, along with other Dead Sea scrolls, Book of Watchers, and Daniel). Part Three takes us to Turfan, China, with four essays on the Book of Giants and Manichaeism.


I can’t wait to read it!


The Book of Giants: Ancient Jewish Literary Creativity beyond the Bible

Slaying Humbaba - by Leonard Greco
Slaying Humbaba – by Leonard Greco

Philip Jenkins has written two useful posts on the Book of Giants, the ancient Jewish work which is found in different versions at Qumran and in Manichaeism.

In his first post, Philip provides a brief introduction to the Book of Giants. In his second post, Philip offers his comments on the significance of the Book of Giants for understanding ancient Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Manichaeism. In particular, I was interested in Philip’s comments on how the Book of Giants sheds light on the development of ancient Jewish literature. Philip refers to works like the Book of Giants as “fan fiction”:

Religious debate and speculation increasingly took the form of writing new texts and pseudo-scriptures, which took the familiar canonized stories and developed them according to contemporary needs and interests. It is scarcely too much to describe some of these pseudepigraphic and apocryphal works as fan fiction.

He then considers the level of invention involved in composing this “fan fiction”:

Not only are writers developing stories, but they are doing so in amazingly florid form, creating whole new mythologies packed with abundant names and titles. Presumably, some authors are sitting down and inventing these names of demons and giants afresh, while others are taking those and adding their own contributions to the expanding mythos. As we know from modern-day fantasy writers, once that process begins, it rapidly spreads and expands.

This is a good point about the Book of Giants, which bears little resemblance to any biblical passage. In fact, while much of the content shares common material with the Jewish work, the Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36), other parts, such as the names of the giants “Gilgamesh” and “Hunbabis” draw from Babylonian myth. Moreover, the story-line in the Book of Giants, so far as it can be reconstructed from the fragments, introduces some highly original and inventive traditions about the giants. So we can’t accurately categorize Book of Giants as “rewritten Bible”: it neither derives straightforwardly or substantially from biblical traditions nor involves mere “rewriting”, but creatively uses older traditions within a new and original narrative.

Philip’s brief comments complement Eva Mroczek’s view in a recent article published in the Journal of Ancient Judaism, “The Hegemony of the Biblical in the Study of Second Temple Literature”.

Mroczek urges that we seek to appreciate early Jewish literature on its own terms, without assuming that its authors were primarily interested in the texts which later became parts of the Bible. She writes:

The absolute centrality of the biblical is a theological, not a historical axiom: a concern with the biblical in the texts that we study must be shown with evidence, not assumed by default. While the history of the field is a history of people seeking the origins, development, and meaning of these iconic texts, the subjects of our study were not necessarily preoccupied with the same things; they were not marching to the biblical finishing line, but living in a culture whose intellectual, religious, and literary creativity cannot be assimilated into one dominant icon. Recognizing this will help us see Second Temple literature more clearly on its own terms.

Mroczek applies these principles to ancient Jewish David traditions. But they apply well to the Book of Giants, too.

Have a read further:

Summary of the Book of Giants by Jim Davila – And Loren Stuckenbruck Turns Into a Woman

Jim Davila (PaleoJudaica) recently noted that he has made available his lecture notes which provide a very useful summary and discussion of The Book of Giants, in its Christian (Manichaean) and Jewish (Dead Sea Scroll) versions. The Book of Giants is a development of the Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36), and includes further stories about the offspring of the Watchers and human women (the Giants).

For a more detailed analysis of the quite fragmentary Dead Sea Scroll version of The Book of Giants, the best discussion is still Loren T. Stuckenbruck’s The Book of Giants from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (TSAJ 63; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997).

Loren Stuckenbruck: A man
Loren Stuckenbruck: A man

Loren Stuckenbruck is a man, and almost universally regarded as such. But in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary on Daniel, he becomes a woman:

Stuckenbruck (1997) has highlighted the striking similarity between a passage in 4Q530, an Aramaic text generally thought to belong to the Enochic work The Book of Giants, and Dan. 7:9-10. She questions earlier judgments that the Qumran text is dependent on Daniel, and suggests that the two texts make independent use of an earlier theophanic tradition. (p. 175)

The “1997” reference doesn’t refer to his 1997 book on The Book of Giants, but to Loren T. Stuckenbruck, “The Throne-Theophany of the Book of Giants: Some New Light on the background of Daniel 7,” in The Scrolls and the Scriptures: Qumran Fifty Years Later, eds. Stanley E. Porter and Craig E. Evans, 211-220 (Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Supplementary Series, 26; Roehampton Institute London Papers, 3; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997). In that article, Stuckenbruck identifies eight examples of identical vocabulary in the two throne visions in lines 16b-20a (frgs 7, 8) of 4QEnGiantsb (4Q530) and Dan. 7.9-10, seven of which are in identical grammatical form, with remarkably similar sequence of phraseology, including five phrases in 17a, b, c-d, 18b, c which correspond to Dan. 7.9b, c, 10c, d, f and in exactly the same sequence (p. 217; cf. Book of Giants, 118). Comparison of the two texts demonstrates that the version in 4QEnGiantsb is “both structurally and theologically less complex than its counterpart in Daniel” (p. 219).  For example, it is more likely that Daniel has added further details concerning the seated figure, his throne, and the “Son of Man” figure than to suppose that 4QEnGiantsb has removed them. Also, the inflation of worshipers at the divine throne from “a hundred hundreds” and “a thousand thousands” (4QEnGiantsb) to “a thousand thousands” and “ten thousand ten thousands” (Dan. 7) is more likely than a reduction. This indicates that Dan. 7 is probably the later text, and dependent at least on a common tradition to that in 4QEnGiantsb.