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The Early Christians Believed in Giants?

“We became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33)





Scripture



Now giants were upon the earth in those days. For after the sons of God went in to the daughters of men and they brought forth children, these are the mighty men of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)


There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:33)


For only Og king of Basan remained of the race of the giants. His bed of iron is shewn, which is in Rabbath of the children of Ammon, being nine cubits long, and four broad after the measure of the cubit of a man’s hand (Deuteronomy 3:11) [1 cubit = 1.5 feet]


Then a champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out from the Philistine camp. He was six cubits and a span in height. (1 Samuel 17:4)


When all the men of Israel saw Goliath, they fled from him in great fear. (1 Samuel 17:24)


Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. (Amos 2:9)


For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them and example unto those that should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked… (2 Peter 2:4–7)


And the angels which kept their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (…) It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:6–7, 14–15)


Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was altogether evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5)



Apocryphal Book of Enoch



And they [the fallen angels] took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in to them, and mixed with them, and taught them charms and conjurations, and made them acquainted with the cutting of roots and of woods. And they became pregnant and brought forth great giants whose stature was three thousand ells. These devoured all the acquisitions of mankind till men were unable to sustain themselves. And the giants turned themselves against mankind in order to devour them. And they began to sin against the birds and the beasts, and against the creeping things, and the fish, and devoured their flesh among themselves, and drank the blood thereof. Then the earth complained of the unjust ones.


(…)


And they have gone together to the daughters of men and have slept with them, with those women, and have defiled themselves, and have revealed to them these sins. And the women have brought forth giants, and thereby the whole earth has been filled with blood and wickedness. And now, behold, the souls which have died cry and lament to the gates of heaven, and their groans ascend, and they are not able to escape from the wickedness which is committed on the earth


(…)


And the spirits of the giants, who cast themselves upon the clouds, will be destroyed and fall, and will battle and cause destruction on the earth, and do evil; they will take no kind of food, nor will they become thirsty, and they will be invisible.


(…)


And behold, they committed sin, and departed from the law, and united themselves with women, and committed sin with them, and married some of them, and begat children from them. And great destruction will be over all the earth, and there will be the water of a deluge, and a great destruction will be for one year. This son who is born to thee will be left on the earth, and his three children will be saved with him; when all men who are on the earth shall die, he and his children will be saved. [They beget on earth giants, not according to the spirit, but according to the flesh, and there will be great punishment on the earth, and the earth will be washed of all of its uncleanness.]



Early Christian Thought



St. Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 430):


All that we indubitably know, from the authentic Scripture in the Hebrew and Christian traditions, is the fact that in the period before the flood there were many giants, all of whom belonged to the earthly city in human society, and that there were sons of God descended from Seth who abandoned their holiness and sank down into this city of men. There is nothing surprising in the fact that giants could be born from men like that. In any case, they were not all giants, even though there were more giants before the flood than in all subsequent ages. They served a divine purpose in that they reveal to anyone who is wise that mere bodily magnitude and might have no more value than bodily beauty.


St. Basil the Great, Of Humility (A.D. 379):


Strength of arm, swiftness of foot and comeliness of body — the spoils of sickness and the plunder of time — also awaken pride in man, unaware as he is that “All flesh is grass and all the glory of man as the flower of the field. The grass is withered and the flower is fallen.” Such was the arrogance of the giants because of their strength. Such also was the Goddefying pride of the witless Goliath.


St. Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 379):


“The giants (Nephilim) were on the earth in those days.” The author of the divine Scripture does not mean that those giants must be considered, according to the tradition of poets, as sons of the earth but asserts that those whom he defines with such a name because of the extraordinary size of their body were generated by angels and women. And let us see whether by any chance the men who only take care of their body and not of their soul are similar to the Nephilim and at the same time to those giants who were born from the earth according to the tales of the poets and despised the authority of the gods by confiding in the hugeness of their body. Must we really consider as different from giants those men who, even though they are composed of body and soul, despise the most precious good of the soul, that is, the activity of the mind, and show themselves to be imitators of this flesh, as if confirming that they were heirs of their own mother’s foolishness. They only struggle in vain when they believe that they will conquer the heaven with their bold desires and their earthly activities. On the contrary, by choosing a lower way of life and despising the higher life, they are condemned with greater severity since they are guilty of voluntary sins.


Ephrem The Syrian (A.D. 373):


The house of Cain, because the earth had been cursed so as not to give them its strength, produced small harvests, deprived of its strength, just as it is today that some seeds, fruits and grasses give strength and some do not. Because at that time they were cursed and sons of the cursed and were dwelling in the land of curses, they would gather and eat produce that lacked nutrition, and those who ate these were without strength just like the food that they ate. As for the Sethites, on the other hand, because they were the descendants of the blessed [Seth] and were dwelling in the land along the boundary of the fence of paradise, their produce was abundant and full of strength. So too were the bodies of those who ate that produce strong and powerful


St. Justin Martyr, Second Apology, Chapter V:


“God, when He had made the whole world, and subjected things earthly to man, and arranged the heavenly elements for the increase of fruits and rotation of the seasons, and appointed this divine law — for these things also He evidently made for man — committed the care of men and of all things under heaven to angels whom He appointed over them. But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women.”


St. Irenaeus, Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching:


“And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants.”


Pope St. Clement of Rome, Clementine Homilies, Homily VIII, Chapter XIII:


“But when, having assumed these forms, they convicted as covetous those who stole them, and changed themselves into the nature of men, in order that, living holily, and showing the possibility of so living, they might subject the ungrateful to punishment, yet having become in all respects men, they also partook of human lust, and being brought under its subjection they fell into cohabitation with women; and being involved with them, and sunk into defilement and altogether emptied of their power, were unable to turn back to the first purity of their proper nature, their members turned away from their fiery substance: for the fire itself, being exhausted by the weight of lust, and changed into flesh, they trode the impious path downward. For they themselves, being fettered with bonds of flesh, were constrained and strongly bound; wherefore they have no more been able to ascend into the heavens.”



Haydock Commentary



George Leo Haydock (A.D. 1849):


Giants. It is likely the generality of men before the flood were of a gigantic stature, in comparison with what men now are. But these here spoken of, are called giants, as being not only tall in stature, but violent and savage in their dispositions, and mere monsters of cruelty and lust. (Challoner) Yet we need not imagine, that they were such as the poets describe, tearing up mountains, and hurling them against heaven. Being offspring of men, who had lived hitherto with great temperance, but now gave full scope to their passions, and the love of the fair daughters whom they chose, we need not wonder that they should be amazingly strong and violent. Nephilim, rushing on, as Ag. translates. That there have been giants of an unusual size, all historians testify. Og, Goliah are mentioned in Scripture, and the sons of Enac are represented as much above the common size, as the Hebrews were greater than grasshoppers, Numbers xiii. 34. If we should suppose they were four or five times our size, would that be more wonderful than that they should live nine or ten times as long as we do? See St. Augustine, City of God xv. 9, 23; Calmet’s Dissert. Delrio affirms, that in 1572 he saw at Rouen, a native of Piedmont, above nine feet high. (Haydock) Of old. The corruption of morals had commenced many ages ago, and some of the sons of Seth had given way to their lusts; so that we are not to suppose, that these giants were all born within a hundred years of the flood, as some might suppose from their being mentioned here, after specifying the age of Noe, chap. v. 31.

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