The Nephilim were descended from Pre-Adamites with no Souls: A New (Scientific) Theory from Geologist Gregg Davidson

For those who consider the Bible to be the flawless word of God, the Primeval History in Genesis 1-11 provides some tough challenges. Where did Cain get a wife from? Who was Cain scared of when he went to settle in the east? Why do the races look different if all share a common ancestor in Adam (and in Noah, who lived not much longer than 4000 years ago)? And who were the sons of God in Gen 6:1-4: divine beings, angels, or merely humans, and – if human – were they descended from Seth or from the cursed lineage of Cain? Famously, Isaac La Peyrère (1596–1676) answered these questions by claiming that, before Adam had been created, there were other human beings alive on earth. For La Peyrère, these other humans were all Gentiles; Adam was not the first human being, but he was the first Jew.

A recent article by geologist Gregg Davidson, “Genetics, the Nephilim, and the Historicity of Adam“, also attempts to address some of these issues. Its aim is to account for the conflict between the Bible’s claim that Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God and the scientific consensus that the human species is descended from other animals. The article was published in the self-claimed “academic journal” of the American Scientific Affiliation, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (vol. 67 no. 1, March 2015: 24-34). Gregg Davidson’s theory follows La Peyrère’s in claiming that there were hominids before the creation of Adam and Eve. But Davidson also claims that God distinguished Adam and Eve from all the other hominids due to the fact that he endowed them with souls. It appears that the other hominids were soul-less. And how did the Nephilim get created? When there was cross-breeding between the en-souled humans and the soul-less hominids, this resulted in the creation of the Nephilim, a group that Gen 6:4 describes as the result of breeding between the “sons of God/gods” and the “daughters of men”.

In the proposed model, God chose an individual hominid pair to endow with souls, separating them spiritually, relationally, and cognitively from their otherwise biologically equivalent contemporaries. After being removed from Eden, limited (and forbidden) interbreeding took place between Adam and Eve’s progeny and still-extant hominids, including more distantly related hominid species such as Neanderthals, resulting in offspring with unique characteristics referred to as Nephilim. Such unions can potentially account for a present human population that derived from a genuine first human couple, while also carrying genetic evidence of contributions from a much larger hominid population. This model simultaneously offers a plausible explanation for Cain’s fear at the time of his banishment, and the enigmatic identity of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6.

The article by Gregg Davidson displays much of the typical anxiety about the boundaries of the human which we find in many historical and contemporary discussions of those liminal creatures, the Nephilim. Davidson insists, in one particularly consternated passage, that while the lower animals might be “soulish”, only humans have actual souls:

The higher animals are often spoken of today as soulish creatures, meaning that they possess some degree of decision-making capacity and conscience experience that goes beyond simple instinct. Soulish characteristics may include loyalty, affection, pleasure, excitement, curiosity, sadness, or a measure of self-awareness. The reason we have such a word in our theological vocabulary is that we assume the behavior of the higher animals resembles that of a soul-bearing human, though lacking the spiritual identity that makes them subject to eternal reward or punishment after death. A soul-bearing creature – what we think of today as a human – has mental and relational capacities that go well beyond soulishness, such as a cognitive understanding of justice and mercy, the ability to create and appreciate art, the desire to understand why things are the way they are, the ability to ponder and communicate abstract ideas, the desire to know truth, and the sense that there is a realm or existence that is beyond the physical. When the Bible speaks of creation in the image of God, it is not a physical appearance, but possession of such characteristics that allow human beings to be God’s relational representatives on this earth. As creatures lacking a soul, hominids living at the time of Adam and Eve may well have had behaviors that were much more soulish than those of the most advanced primates of today, but still only soul-ish.

Soulish, but not soul-bearing. Got the difference?

But what is most interesting – for avid Remnant of Giants readers – is Davidson’s proposed explanation for the creation of the Nephilim. They resulted from the divinely prohibited interbreeding of humans and Neanderthals. Or, failing that, Davidson adds, there was inter-breeding between humans and some other soul-less hominids. This, incidentally, explains why they were Giants!

… if the timing of Genesis 6 coincides with the period of overlap between humans and Neanderthals, the heavier musculature of the Neanderthals could certainly have resulted in offspring with enhanced strength or unique physical characteristics that made it natural to refer to them by a special name. (If farther back in time, then a similar argument can be made for an earlier variety of hominid.)

The genetic basis is simple (not to mention highly improbable):

Though this model equates the “sons of God” with hominids and the “daughters of men” with humans, it works equally well if these are reversed. Such a scenario perhaps fits better with the tendency for males to bring females back to their tribe. To preserve the ancestry of all living humans back to mitochondrial Eve, this simply requires that the progeny of all female-hominid/male-human unions eventually failed to produce daughters.

So if one simply accepts a literal understanding of Genesis 1-3, and Paul’s belief in an historical Adam, the existence of souls in humans, and the non-existence of souls in non-human animals, then Davidson has provided a logically possible way also to accept the findings of modern genetic science.

The model preserves an understanding of a first sin (whether original or ancestral) as described both in Genesis and in the writings of Paul, and also potentially resolves the biblical conundrums of who Cain was afraid of in Genesis 3 [sic], and the enigmatic identity of the “sons of God” and the Nephilim in Genesis 6.

It’s a fantastic theory. Literally.

It seems that La Peyrère’s Pre-adamite theory has experienced something of a comeback in 2015. Pre-adamites also featured – although conceived somewhat differently – in the book authored earlier in 2015 by John H. Walton and N.T. Wright, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015). What many other people see as the clear conflict between Bible and modern science has prompted some highly creative harmonizations.


Frauke Uhlenbruch: Nephilim as Cyborgs


In her recent publication, The Nowhere Bible: Utopia, Dystopia, Science Fiction (DeGruyter, March 2015), Frauke Uhlenbruch treats the Nephilim of Numbers 13:32-33 as cyborgs.

Employing Donna Haraway’s definition of “cyborg”, Uhlenbruch interprets each of the the Nephilim as “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (“A Cyborg Manifesto”, p. 149). For Uhlenbruch, the Nephilim are boundary-crossers, defying monist categorization. Unlike the twelve spies, whose ancestors are given as the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel, the Nephilim do not derive from the utopian unity which originates in the Garden of Eden and which may be traced through to the Patriarchs. In Genesis 6:4, the Nephilim are instead described as hybrid descendants of human women and the sons of the gods.

nowhere-bible“They are partial gods, partial humans, there has been intimacy with human women, and through this breach of boundaries, they are definite symbols of perversity” (p. 178).

But in the biblical story, partial identities and “contradictory standpoints” are not to be permitted. “In the ideal world-to-be that Numbers 13 proposes, the boundary-crosser will be eliminated… Their presence is clearly not desired in the biblical Promised Land, at least not by the Israelites” (p. 179).

And indeed, in the book of Joshua, the Anakim – said to be the descendants of the Nephilim in Num 13:33 – are finally driven out by Caleb (Josh 14-15). Or was that Joshua (Josh 11:21-22)?

“And also afterward”: An example of the interpretation of Genesis 6:4 after Nephilim DNA and the racialized Curse of Ham


J.D. Rucker runs a website called Judeo Christian Church, on which he publishes various sermon-style talks on various topics related to the Bible and Christianity. His talk published on March 16, 2015 discusses the meaning of Genesis 6:1-4, the strange episode in which “sons of god” have sex with “daughters of men” and thereby sire Nephilim (the heroes of old or warriors of renown).

Most of the talk involves an interpretation of the “sons of god” as angels. But what interested me was his setting out of three options for interpreting the phrase “and also afterward” in Genesis 6:4. The biblical phrase, considered an interpolation in many historical-critical studies, indicates that the Nephilim were not only in the earth before the flood (when Gen 6:1-4 is predominantly set), but also after the flood.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterward — when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown. (Ge 6:4)

Rucker’s three options for understanding the phrase “and also afterward” are these:

1. The Flood did not kill all the Nephilim. They may have hid on the ark, or escaped somehow.
2. Other angels (“sons of god”) came down after the Flood and had sex with human women.
3. There was giant blood or giant genetics on the ark.

Rucker dismisses the first two options, as there is no explicit mention of this in the Bible. Instead, he suggests that the wife of Ham, the mother of Canaan, may have had tainted blood. She had “Nephilim coding” in her bloodline. Yet Rucker acknowledges that this is also speculation, not found in the Bible. On the face of it, then, he seems to give no distinct reason for favouring option 3 over the other two.

This is an interesting decision, I think, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the idea that there is a contamination of human DNA resulting from the Nephilim has been widely propagated in recent decades, in populist books and on websites. This idea can be found in end-times speculations, UFO speculations, and similar literature. Interestingly, Rucker seems to reject many of these theories. He doesn’t favour the idea of Nephilim DNA surviving today and the more conspiratorial versions of the Nephilim DNA theories. Yet he is still persuaded by option three in interpreting the phrase “and also afterward”. Second, the association of Ham and Canaan with tainted blood has a long history in racial interpretation of the “curse of Ham”. Rucker does not himself apply this racial line of interpretation, I emphasize. Yet he adapts the tradition (probably unconsciously) as an explanation, I suspect, of the mention of many giants in Numbers and Deuteronomy as inhabiting the land of Canaan (e.g. Anakim, Emim, Zamzumim, etc).

Rucker does claim to be simply interpreting the Bible. But his favoured interpretation in fact intersects with, and is a product of certain older and newer interpretive streams, including in particular traditions of the racial curse of Ham and Nephilim DNA. Reception history is a complex beast.

Recent Giant Scholarship

Israeli Ministry of Tourism logoWhat are biblical scholars saying about the Giants in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible? The latest word in biblical scholarship can be found here:

Galbraith, D. (2013). “Manufacturing Judean Myth: The Spy Narrative in Numbers 13–14 as Rewritten Tradition”(Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy)

Among the findings:

(1) the Hebronite traditions (concerning the Judahite leader Caleb, the city of Hebron, and ‘the sons of Anak’ who inhabit Hebron) are not vestiges of ancient legend which have been preserved in the text, but are all secondary to the spy-rebellion tradition derived from dtr Deut. 1;

(2) gigantic stature was first attributed to the sons of Anak and Nephilim in the composition of Num. 13–14, and to the Anakim and Rephaim of Deut. 1–3 in post-deuteronomistic Hexateuchal additions which harmonised the text with the expansionary Num. 13–14;

(3) the extension of the term ‘Rephaim’ to denote entire giant peoples throughout their associated territories also originates with the Hexateuchal harmonisations in Deut. 1–3;

And a detailed interview with the author can be found on Jim West’s blog, Zwinglius Redivivus:

“Scholars You Should Know: Deane Galbraith”

I know, I know – such gratuitous self-publicity…

Why didn’t the female angels have sex with man?

Today, this Google query ended up here. It’s an interesting question, given that the rich reception of Gen. 6.1-4 only depicts male angels having sex with human women.

But the answer is simple: there are no female angels. In early Jewish literature, all angels are male.

Update 1: This important issue seems to have provoked interest. Jack Collins (Worthless Mysteries) comments below that Na’amah, the subject of speculation since being listed as the one female Cainite in Gen. 4:22b (see the genealogy in Gen. 4:17-22), ends up as a fallen angel in the Zohar. As she has sex with Adam, this counts as a female angel having sex with a man. But we’re well into medieval Judaism here. The same would go for Lilith traditions, which SP discusses in the comments section.

Update 2: And the Greek goddesses become angels in late Christian tradition. Nike, already winged in Greek iconography, is easily angelified, given the conflation of angels with the winged creatures.

Update 3: Jim Davila (Paleojudaica) points out “the four Hayyot (“living creatures” or “beasts”) of Ezekiel chapter 1 are grammatically female”.  Grammatically, that is, but not in gender. Yet, what this means is a bit mysterious, as Jim points out, and they’re not precisely angels.

Update 4: Also in the comments section, SP points out that “in Targum Neofiti (on Gen. 6), the bene [ha]elohim take (אנשי(ן instead of women”. That is, the sons of the gods have sex with men rather than women. This might be a result of a problem in textual transmission, though, as the final nun is missing.

So it is still correct to say that, as far as the evidence of early Judaism goes, there are no female angels – and therefore no angels who have sex with men. Or have I missed some evidence of female angels in early Judaism….?

The Nephilim, Human Perfection, and Gender – Anthony D. Baker and Adam Kotsko

nephilim-and-womanThere is an interesting discussion going on involving Anthony D. Baker and Adam Kotsko concerning the sexual roles of the sons of god(s) and daughters of men in Gen. 6.1-4, rape, theosis, and gendering.

Anthony started it all, with a post entitled “Gender and the Studio” (Theology Studio, 20 November 2012), in which he responds to a challenge issued by Sarah Coakley concerning his gendering of the Anunciation to Mary the mother of Jesus. The question in turn arises from Anthony’s thesis in his 2011 book, Diagonal Advance: Perfection in Christian Theology, in which he argues that the story of Adam and Eve has been misinterpreted by treating the first humans as equivalent to the Greek person of Prometheus.  Whereas Prometheus must accept his own limitations and must be punished for transgressing into the divine realm, Adam and Eve are created with the potential for theosis, or transformation into the image of God. So Anthony summarises that “we assume that the archetypal human is not Adam and Eve, who are called to share in the divine being, but Prometheus, who is confined to a natural plane, and must either content himself with this ‘natural imperfection’, or else go steal a torch of divine fire.  If we affirm the human calling to deification, we do so despite its God-defying character; if we deny it, we do so because it seems the ultimate hubristic dogma.”

For Anthony, the imposition of the Prometheus myth onto the Christian myth turns the transgression of Adam and Eve, and of the sons of god(s) into nature-defying acts. The Christian, theological concept of the Fall, in turn, genders these acts as active (male) and passive (female). This is in contrast to the Anunciation in Luke 1, in which Mary actively responds to the desire for her shown by God – so that their  “erotic transgression” (Anthony’s unusual phrase)  is “consensual”, not rape as in Gen. 6.

Then Anthony  gives an example from Gen. 6.1-4:

The fall narratives, from Eden to Babel to the origin of the Nephilim, are about the disorder than comes of too much taking. In the latter case, the Sons of God find the daughters of men desirable, and “take” them as wives (Gen 6). The “Sons” are pure activity here, and the “daughters” are so passive that the text implies a Sabine-like rape.

But Adam challenges Anthony: “if your account of the meaning of masculinity and femininity is derived from a rape scene, something has gone badly wrong, something that requires not ‘clarification,’ but repentance and conversion”. Yet, if I understand Anthony, he describes this particular gendered binary as a result of the Fall, not as a “paradigm” for gender.

Adam also argues that “it’s highly questionable to use it as a paradigm of intra-human relations, given that both the Jewish and Christian traditions have almost unanimously regarded the ‘Sons of God’ as being angels (or some form of supernatural being)”. But in Christian theology from at least Augustine until modernity, the ‘sons of god(s)’ have not usually been interpreted as angels. They were interpreted as human – as sons of Seth who mixed with the daughters of Cain. This is the case for most of Christendom – until modern biblical scholarship suspected a polytheistic framework behind the story.

Does Gen. 6.4  describe rape at all? Adam is right that the text is hardly clear. As Walter Bührer notes in his 2011 ZAW article, “Göttersöhne und Menschentöchter: : Gen 6,1–4 als innerbiblische Schriftauslegung”, the sequence of “seeing”, considering the object as “good”, and then “taking” it provides a strong echo between Gen. 6.4 and Gen. 3.6 as accounts of two transgressions. But if there is an offence in the actions of the sons of god(s), it would be against the fathers of the daughters of man – for they were the ones who previously possessed their daughters’ marriage rights before they were seemingly taken at will by the sons of god(s). As for the situation of the daughters of men, they may well have been willing participants, as Adam suggests is a possibility. Although, there is a clear power differential between the sons of god(s) and daughters of men which still makes the sons of god(s) the more active characters in the story. The sons of god(s) are mighty characters, who sire other famed and mighty characters. They do the gazing upon the women, who are noted only for their beauty. There is no suggestion that the daughters of men were seductresses – as in the later reception history of Gen. 6.4. So the male-active / female-passive binary seems clear from the story, even if it is not interpreted as a rape story.


h/t: Bob Macdonald, Biblical Studies Carnival November 2011

Gushing Female Orgasm shows Noah’s Mother did not Have Sex with Fallen Angels

Bitenosh, wife of Lamech, mother of Noah
Bitenosh, wife of Lamech, mother of Noah

In the latest issue of the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Pieter W. van der Horst takes a close look at Bitenosh’s orgasm.

Bitenosh is – according to the ‘rewritten bible’ text from Qumran, 1QapGen – Noah’s mother and the wife of Lamech. One of the early stories narrated within this fragmentary text tells how, when Noah was born, his father Lamech was startled by his gigantic appearance. Or at least, that seems to be the background, by comparison with 1 Enoch 106, as the text has a gap at this point. On seeing Noah’s extraordinary appearance, Lamech became suspicious as to whether he was the father or it was one of those ‘sons of god(s)’ mentioned also in Gen. 6.2. So Bitenosh has to defend herself. She does so by reminding Lamech of her ‘sexual pleasure’ (‘adinti) during their sexual intercourse:

Oh my brother and lord, remember my sexual pleasure! … in the heat of intercourse and the gasping of my breath in my breast…. Remember my sexual pleasure! … that this seed comes from you, that this pregnancy comes from you.
– 1QapGen 2.8-15

Pieter W. van der Horst argues that Bitenosh’s argument is only cogent if the author understands that Lamech’s ejaculation mixed with her own ejaculation of seed. He argues that the Jewish text is based on a Greek theory of embryogenesis which involved the woman contributing her own seed during sexual intercourse. So when Bitenosh reminded Lamech that she had a gushing climax to their sexual congress, during which Lamech had also ejaculated, her argument that Lamech was the father of the resulting offspring, Noah, rested on this Greek-derived ‘double-seed’ theory of conception.

I see on the first page of the article that van der Horst refers to Erna Lesky’s “seminal study” of ancient Greek theories of embryogenesis. Well played, Pieter, well played.

Pieter W. van der Horst, “Bitenosh’s Orgasm (1QapGen 2:9-15)”, Journal for the Study of Judaism 43 nos 4-5 (2012): 613-28.

H/t: Jim Davila, Paleojudaica[, for bringing the article to my attention]