David and Goliath: The Very Scary Giant

Sunny Griffin (text) and Donna Lee Hill (illustrations),
David and The Very Scary Giant.
Ashland, OH: Landoll, 1994.

Some children’s books are quite oblique when it comes to explaining what happens to Goliath at the end of the story of David and Goliath. After a very slow build-up, with lots of background about David as a young boy and how he looked after his sheep – David and The Very Scary Giant suddenly gets to the climax:

The text explains that David’s stone killed Goliath. That is, however, the last page. There’s no actual depiction of David killing Goliath, just the expectation in Goliath’s eyes. And there is definitely no head-chopping.

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David and Goliath: Toddlers Bible Library

My favourite David and Goliath children’s books are the ones aimed at very young readers. To be clear, they are my favourite. I wouldn’t let them near actual children.

Take this one, a short board book, in the series “The Toddlers Bible Library”: V. Gilbert Beers (text), David Fights a Giant. The Toddlers Bible Library (Wheaton: Paradise Press, 1993).

I dunno – something about that series title (The Toddlers Bible Library) might have perhaps provided a hint that the David & Goliath story wasn’t really suitable.

Yet the authors attempt to make it suitable for toddlers by making it obscure how exactly David killed Goliath. The two characters never appear in the same shot, but only on successive pages. So your toddler doesn’t get to see this whole scene, which I’ve spliced together for older readers (R18):

And then you get a shot of Goliath lying down. One is not quite sure why he is lying down. To sanitise it for toddlers, the authors have had to make the plot undecipherable. But they do make the reason clear for why David defeated the giant: because he asked God for help, whereas Goliath did not. (No mention that it was ‘help’ … to kill someone.)

This is either a very confusing story for toddlers, or – if their parents explain what’s happening – a very unsuitable story for toddlers. All this explains a lot about how Christians turn out, though.

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:

Matthew Chrulew on Nephilim (Genesis 6:1-4)

Matthew Chrulew, author of The Angælien Conspiracy
Matthew Chrulew, author of The Angælien Apocalypse

Matthew Chrulew’s short novel The Angælien Apocalypse (Twelfth Planet Press, 2010) reads as though it may have been written as a collaboration between Erich von Däniken (Chariots of the Gods?) and Garth Ennis (Preacher). It’s a fun and clever account of what transpires when the world finds out that the ancient-aliens-in-the-Bible conspiracy theorists were right all along. Chrulew is a philosophical ethologist at the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University, where he leads the Posthumanism and Technology research program.

One of the highlights of The Angælien Apocalypse is this summary of Genesis 6:1-4, in the mouth of one of the main characters, Miguel:

“I’m sure they’ve gone through the regular scriptures with you: Ezekiel 1, Matthew 24, Revelation 4. But did they mention Genesis 6? The flood? The Nephilim, Joke [Joachim]. Did they mention them? It’s all there in the Bible: how the sons of God fucked the daughters of men and their kids busted arse all over the joint. Giant freaks, Joke. That’s why there was the flood: once they were around, God in His holiness had to do it, to purge those unholy powerful motherfuckers….

“The angælians almost got what they wanted that time, Joke. All of the Earth was wiped out – except for Noah and his crew. God decided to save a human remnant – and I bet that mightily pissed them off. So this time – this time they mean for him to take out the whole lot. That’s the Cherubim’s real plan, Joke. To cross-breed mongrel Neo-nephilim so when Jesus comes in divine judgement he can’t help but get all wrathful on our corrupt and violent arses…

“They’ve been jealous ever since we were created, ever since Lucifer was first banished to this star system. They want their favourite spot back, right next to the big guy. And so they mingle with the seed of men, manipulate the races, just like it says in Daniel 2.”

The idea that demonic seed has corrupted the human lineage is widely discussed in ancient alien lit, such as in the works of Zecharia Sitchin.

The idea that Lucifer/Satan/’Azaz’el was jealous of God’s creation of humanity, and conversely that the angels resented their resulting loss of status, may be found in ancient interpretations of Genesis 6:1-4, such as the Life of Adam and Eve (12-16) and Questions of Bartholomew 4.53-57.

 

The Slacktivist on the Different versions of David & Goliath

Fred Clark (The Slacktivist)
Fred Clark (The Slacktivist)

The Slacktivist (Fred Clark) continues to examine Goliath.

In his latest post, Fred examines the various versions of the David and Goliath story – not only its various modern film versions, children’s books, Sunday School lessons, etc, but also the different versions which exist within the Bible.

Have a read of his post here.

Also have a look at some earlier posts on this topic on Remnant of Giants.

On the different versions within the Bible:

Illustrating The Benefits of Pentateuchal Literary Criticism: The David and Goliath Story

Scott Derrickson’s Goliath: Respecting the Original

A Beginner’s Guide to Biblical Scholarship – by Jennifer Bird

On modern versions:

A David and Goliath Musical for Children on DVD

The David and Goliath Segment of The History Channel’s The Bible

Q Magazine’s comics reviewer Colin Smith reviews Tom Gauld’s Goliath

Bollywood does David and Goliath

When Goliath was in Ireland: “Dáithí agus Goliath”

David and Goliath as lovers in Caravaggio, Paul Cadmus, Charlie White, Matthew Stone, and David Dalla Venezia

Black Goliath – Bigger than The Brown Hornet