Modern Christian Mythology: Giants Lived in the Past

Giants in the Past

People do believe some odd things. And for some odd reasons. When I was young, for instance, I had heard from adults around me that, at one time, there were giants living on earth. It’s true, you know!

The past existence of giants wasn’t believed because of any extant evidence (very large human bones, for instance), but rather because of a story that appears in the Hebrew Bible. In 1 Samuel, the character of Goliath fights a young David, future kind of Judea.

The story, tough, is more likely myth than history. We think this because of a couple of  issues.

Firstly, the famous battle between David and Goliath does not appear to be the original appearance of the Goliath character. Hidden away in another section of Samuel (well after most readers have glazed over into a catatonic state)  it is mentioned that the giant Goliath was slain by a soldier named named Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim (2 Samuel 21:19). Since the accomplishments of an unknown individual will be credited to a known individual more often than the reverse, we have reason to believe that the battle with Goliath was credited to David as a result of legendary embellishment at a later date.

Secondly, the height of Goliath, it seems, has been greatly exaggerated. Up until 1948, the oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible that we had were the Masoratic texts, which were from the medieval period. In that version, Goliath clocks in at amazing 9 1/2 feet tall. In 1948, however, the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Hebrew scriptures dating from the 1-2nd century BCE, gave us an older, thereby closer to the original, version. The description of Goliath in those copies had Goliath described as 6.5 ft tall, Still tall for a people that didn’t eat a lot of meat, just far short of any world records.

A desire to believe in giants despite the lack of evidence lead to one of my favorite frauds of all time: the Cardiff Giant

To hear an actual archeologist talk about the sorts of things that people mistake for evidence of giants, as well as the history behind the Cardiff Giant, listen to Dr Ken Feder being interviewed on an entertaining episode of Monster Talk.

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4 Comments on “Modern Christian Mythology: Giants Lived in the Past”

  1. james Says:

    In the HOLY BIBLE, 2SAMUEL chpt21 vr19 it is written “In still another battle at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair* from Bethlehem killed the brother of Goliath of Gath.* The handle of his spear was as thick as a weaver’s beeam!”

  2. Victor Says:

    That’s pretty thick!

  3. Archaeologists speculate Goliath is a Hebrew rendering of Aylattes, a Greek name (-es is a Greek sufformative dropped in Hebrew), the Philistines being identified as being Greeks from coastal Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) who settled in Gaza, in Canaan circa 1180 BC in the reign of Rameses III of Egypt. The archaeologists did find in Canaan the skeletal remains of a large man, I don’t recall his height, but he was over 6 feet. Biblical descriptions of Goliath’s armor matches known Greek armor of the period (circa 1200 BC).

  4. Travis Morgan Says:

    Also see Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33 for more references to these giants.
    Since these 2 passages sandwich Noah’s great flood, the giants HAD to be on the ark since all living things that walk or crawl that weren’t on the ark were killed by Jehovah’s angry flood.

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